JOURNAL OF ROGUE RIVER WAR, 1855October 23, 1855, Tuesday. Linn County, O.T. The Indians of Rogue River Valley having broke the treaty of 1853, and commenced hostilities against the whites by breaking out about the 10th of this month and killing a great many citizens and miners of that valley, and destroying a great deal of property by fire, and stealing such stock and property as they could take with them, killed a large amount of stock and burned the houses and grain, spreading death and desolation over the land, the citizens of that valley have become much alarmed and sent petitions to the Willamette praying for assistance, the Governor immediately issued a proclamation calling for 3 companies of mounted volunteers from Linn and Lane counties to go and chastise the savage murderers, which call was readily responded to, the southern counties furnishing their quota also, the northern counties having already turned out their brave and noble-hearted boys to quell the savage and indiscriminating murderers of the North, who have been for years past perpetrating their bloody deeds on the emigrants while passing through their country and there has been many bloody deeds committed by them on explorers, traders, and missionaries. Nothing but a severe drubbing will ever quell them. Today by order of our enrolling officer, Colonel Helms, we met at Harrisburg, elected our officers. For captain we elected Jonathan Keeney, first lieutenant, [A. W.] Stanard, second lieutenant, Joseph Yates. We then marched out of town a mile and encamped for the night.
By Harvey Robbins
October 24, Wednesday. This morning we were on the line of march by 8 o'clock. We arrived at Eugene City at 1 o'clock p.m. and were mustered into service and our animals and equipage appraised. We then camped near the town on the Willamette River.
October 25, Thursday. This morning our officers are busily engaged in making necessary arrangements for our trip. At 1 o'clock we paraded with Captain Buoy's company of Lane County, and Mr. Michel of Lane Co. and Mr. I. N. Smith of Linn Co. delivered us a very patriotic speech, each. We then traveled 10 miles and camped for the night on the coast fork of the Willamette River. A middling poor show for cooking, owing to the scarcity of cooking utensils, which we will get at Roseburg.
October 26, Friday. Today we traveled 25 miles and camped near the foot of the Calapooya Mountains for the night.
October 27, Saturday. Today we crossed over the Calapooya Mountains, encamped for the night in the Umpqua Valley after 12 miles march over very bad roads.
October 28, Sunday. Traveled 12 miles and camped for the night on the Camas Swale.
October 29, Monday. Last night at about 12 o'clock a messenger appeared at our camp with an order from Roseburg, which is headquarters, calling for a detachment of 30 men to go and quell some Indians on Cole's prairie, who had been making hostile threats towards the citizens of that place. The 30 men were detached immediately under Lieutenant Stanard, the remainder of the company marched to Roseburg, 18 miles, against 6 o'clock a.m. We camped near the town to remain until our detail of last night comes up. The citizens of this place seem to treat the volunteers with but very little respect. One man has even forbade our cutting wood on his claim. We just went to his wood that was already chopped and helped ourselves. At 3 o'clock in the evening our detachment arrived with 10 Indian prisoners, which were taken without the firing of a gun. They were delivered up to the authority of the place. About night there was a guard called for from our company to protect the Indians from the violence of the citizens, some threatening their lives, others threatening to release them. Captain told them that if they would bring them back to his camp he would guard them.
October 30, Tuesday. Rained all night. We have no tents yet. The citizens will not even let us sleep in their barns. A person may very easily imagine what kind of respect the volunteers begin to have for Umpquaians. Today have to elect a superior officer to command the whole battalion. We hope that we may make a wise choice, knowing that the glory of the war depends entirely on the superior officers. It seems that Captain William Martin is the choice of all. He was unanimously elected, having no opposer at all. He runs a very strong race. We left Roseburg at 4 o'clock, traveled 5 miles and camped for the night.
October 31, Thursday. Last night an express arrived here who brought the news that Captain Bailey's company and the Umpqua volunteers together with the southern battalion, and Capt. Smith with his regulars had attacked the Indians. By daylight we were on the march through the canyon. We traveled 20 miles and arrived at the Six-Bit House, which is a house in the Grave Creek Hills. It is now called Fort Bailey. When we arrived here we were informed that they were fighting the Indians about 15 miles from this place. They are in the mountains between Grave Creek and Cow Creek. Captain Keeney wanted to push ahead to their assistance, but Major Martin would not permit him to go. At 4 o'clock p.m. some of the volunteers arrived from the field bringing the news that the whites were all retreating with 40 killed and wounded. They had fought two days without any provision, consequently they were obliged to leave the field to the Indians. It is not known how many Indians killed, neither is it known how many were engaged in the fight. There seems to be a diversity of opinion as to the number of Indians, some say from 200 to 300, others as high as 500. I guess them that was not there has about as good an idea of the number of Indians engaged as those that were there. They had taken a position on the top of a high mountain, which was covered with timber and a thick growth of chaparral and manzanita brush. The thickness of the brush would not admit of a charge and whenever attempted by the whites they were repulsed with a heavy loss. They kept themselves close concealed until an opportunity presented itself for them to make a sure shot, then the keen crack of the rifle would warn the white man that Mr. Indian was close at hand. And so was fought the battle of Hungry Hill, as it has since been named. 40 of us went to assist in the wounded to this place, it being one of the nearest rendezvous to the battle field. They were carried in on litters by hand.
November 2, Friday. This morning we are under orders to return back as far as Cow Creek, and guard the few citizens of that valley that have not been murdered by those treacherous villains. There are but 3 houses left standing in this valley; the rest have all been burnt by the Indians, the stock all killed and stolen and farms laid waste. 11 o'clock p.m. arrived at [William Henry] Smith's on Cow Creek. 40 remain here and the rest proceed to the canyon.
November 3, Saturday. 20 of us escorted a pack train to the canyon. As soon as they return with ammunition we expect to give the Indians another round.
November 4, Sunday. This morning 20 of us went out on a scout. We went to the summit of a high peak on the west side of the canyon. Returned in the evening without making any discovery.
November 5, Monday. Nothing to do but cook and eat and escort traveling parties from this place to Fort Bailey.
November 6, Tuesday. A large pack train arrived through the canyon loaded with provision.
November 7, Wednesday. Cold rain. The most of us without tents. 30 of our men that were detailed to guard Roseburg arrived this evening all safe and sound.
November 8, Thursday. We drove our horses off into the mountain about 3 miles to grass. The grasshoppers destroyed nearly all the grass out here last summer, and the Indians burnt all the grain, so our feed has to be brought from the Willamette.
November 9, Friday. Cold and raining. Some of the boys begin to shiver and wish themselves back home.
November 10, Saturday. Snow fell last night to the depth of 3 inches in the valley and much deeper in the hills.
November 11, Sunday. Marched to Fort Bailey and camped.
November 12, Monday. Making preparations for building a fort. It is expected that this will be our winter quarters.
November 13, Tuesday. All hands at work, each mess building their own house to winter in.
November 14, Wednesday. This morning every man seems to be stirring and making all the noise possible.
November 15, Thursday. Clear and pleasant.
November 16, Friday. Rained all night. Quite a number of us are without tents yet, but there is no chance for dodging. Here we have to stand and take it or lay down to it as we choose.
November 17, Saturday. This morning the sky is clear and the sun is just peeping over the mountain in all his beauty. An express has just arrived at our camp bringing the news of the Indians burning houses on Jump-Off Joe, and a request from Major Bruce of the Southern Battalion to Capt. Keeney for his company to meet him there to try to take the rascals in. 4 o'clock p.m. We have two bears barbecued ready for the march, and the fighting too, if we get the chance. Capt. Keeney sent an express back to the Canyon for a pack train to follow on after us with provisions.
November 18, Sunday. This morning by 8 o'clock we were on the march. We traveled 9 miles and met some men that informed us that Capt. Bob Williams had attacked the Indians 30 or 40 in number, and had completely cleaned them out, having killed 5 of them and put the rest to flight. 1 man wounded. They think that the Indians have retreated down toward the mouth of Grave Creek. We went back 3 miles to Grave Creek, thence down this stream 4 miles and encamped for the night.
November 19, Monday. This morning Capt. Keeney having determined to proceed down Grave Creek to Rogue River on foot, we sent all our horses back to Fort Leland. Captain sent back 15 men to hurry up the muckamuck, our rations being already nearly exhausted. We traveled 12 miles down Grave Creek and camped. This is a rough and mountainous country. The creek winds its way through rocky canyons. There is some gold in these mountains. From the appearance of the labor that has been done along this stream I judge there has been several dimes taken out here.
November 20, Tuesday. This morning all hands complain of being sore, after climbing mountains all day yesterday and lugging their knapsacks. Half rations for breakfast; a little dough wound on a stick and baked, and a small slice of beef constituted my meal. Having concluded to remain in camp today to wait for provision, Capt. ordered 40 men out on scout; 20 to proceed down the creek to its mouth to see if there have any Indians passed down that way on foot; the other 20 to go on to a high peak that lay to our north, to see if there could be any discovery made in that quarter. While on the summit of this peak we were startled by the firing of guns up Grave Creek, also the report of 3 guns some distance to the west. We supposed that the Indians had attacked our pack train. We went back to camp with all haste. We all gathered up and marched up the creek with the expectation of having to fight. We marched 4 miles and met 8 of our men with some of our horses packed with provisions. It was Capt. Buoy's company that we heard firing up the creek. We halted and cooked and eat our dinner. Send 10 men back to make another trip for pack animals, as all attempts had yet failed; thence up a mountain 2 miles. Camped with grass, plenty of water.
November 21, Wednesday. Remained in camp today, except 30 men on scout. We went to the summit of the mountain that we were camped on 3 miles where we could see all over the whole country. Many of the snow-capped peaks presented themselves to our view. Indians in this country have all advantage on the army. They have spies all over the mountain that see the army wherever they go. I think that it may safely be termed the Indian's home. Deer, bear and elk abound in these mountains.
November 22, Thursday. This morning we took up the line of march for Rogue River, down Grave Creek 4 miles, thence over a mountain 8 miles, which the boys named Mount Rubbing in honor of a young man [illegible]. 15 of us volunteer to go down Grave Creek to the mouth, thence down Rogue River to where the pack trail strikes the river, which is 6 miles of a deep canyon, and entirely impassable for anything else but a footman and so near impassable for them that I never want to try it again. Where the trail strikes the river there is an Indian ranch or village of about 25 huts, which we burnt. From appearance we supposed the Indians had been gone about 2 days. We think that they were probably frightened away by our first day's travel down Grave Creek. Had we not gone back when we heard Capt. Buoy's guns, we would I think have given them a close chase. There had some 30 or 40 Indians come down the river, supposed to be mostly squaws and children. They were undoubtedly badly frightened. Children and all had been running with all haste. We camped here this evening. Capt. Buoy's company arrived here and camped with us. We were out of meat. They had two beeves killed, one divided with us.
November 23, Friday. Today lying still. Myself and 2 other men follow an Indian's track 4 miles where he had gone last night. Major Martin arrived this evening with about 150 volunteers, 10 days provisions and Capt. Judah with 50 regulars, one cannon.
November 24, Saturday. Today Major Martin with about 400 men marched 15 miles over a mountain. Snow 12 inches deep for 3 miles. Encamped on the meadows. Excellent grass. 3 o'clock in the evening the vanguard discovered an encampment about 4 miles distant in Rogue River Canyon, which after examining with a glass were thought to be Indians, though not positive; as Capt. Williams is expected down on that side of the mountain it may be he.
November 25, Sunday. 2 men started at 2 o'clock last night as spies to see whether it was Capt. Williams or Indians that we had seen on yesterday evening. 12 o'clock today spies of last night not returned yet. 1 o'clock Williams arrived, came down on the same side of the river on which we did, which confirmed us that it was Indians that we had supposed to be Williams. Capt. Judah and Major Bruce went on to a mountain to take another look with the glass. Returned, report that the Indians have burnt their village. Capt. Keeney with his footmen marched down a deep ravine 2 miles to the small creek, thence down the creek 1 mile to the river. On this creek a short distance from the river, John Rogers, a young man in our company, discovered something under a large rock, which after examining was found to be a cache either put here by Indians or miners; supposed to be miners. It consisted of flour, 50 lbs., coffee 40 lbs., salt 10 lbs., 1 valise, 1 peck of chestnut acorns, several books, many other articles too numerous to mention. Camped, 6 men in each, 50 yds. apart for the purpose of cutting off any Indians that might attempt to pass down the river.
November 26, Monday. This morning the Southern Battalion came down the river. The spy of yesterday morning arrived at camp, reported that the Indians were, he thought from all appearances, preparing to fight. He said that he could distinguish one amongst them that was Charco Boston. Capt. Keeney's company was ordered to cross the river with Southern Battalion. While preparing rafts to cross the river we were attacked by the Indians from the opposite side of the river. Killed one man, wounded 22 more, Capt. Keeney's company. The river runs here in a deep canyon. The side on which the Indians were is covered with fir timber and brush so thick that we could not see them. The side on which we were was open with the exception of a few scattering trees. As soon as the firing commenced Capt. Keeney ordered his men, everyone to choose a position behind something to shelter us from their sight. 10 minutes before he advised us, all that were not at work, to get behind something and keep a close lookout for Indians, but the boys were disposed to laugh at him. The firing commenced at about 1 o'clock, continued till 8 o'clock at night, when seeing that it was impossible to accomplish our object or even do any good in any way, we left the field, carrying our killed and wounded with us to our camp. Of the 25 it is not known whether any were killed or not, though some of the boys say they are certain they killed some.
November 27, Tuesday. This morning a melancholy duty remained for us to do, that was the burying of our dead man, which we did with the honor due to him who had lost his life in defense of his country. Major Martin and Major Bruce, seeing that their forces were inadequate, sent for reinforcement, also for supplies and provisions.
November 28, Wednesday. Very cold, snowing and raining all day. This morning, seeing our 10 days' provisions were going to fall short, we were put on half rations.
November 29, Thursday. Continues blustery weather. Our company is out of flour, nothing but beans without salt, and coffee to eat.
November 30, Friday. It still continues to rain and snow. The Indians still hold their position. They fire on every man that gets within 6 hundred of them.
December 1, Saturday. Quite pleasant. Today we obtained from the Southern Battalion a few bushels of wheat which we cooked and eat. This evening a small pack train arrived with provisions.
December 2, Sunday. Snow fell last night to the depth of 6 inches. This morning Major Martin and Major Bruce, seeing that we were in danger of being bound in here by snow, deeming it unwise to remain here longer, ordered their forces to march back for the settlement. By 8 o'clock we were on march carrying our wounded men on a litter, all but the ones who were able to ride horseback. We had a mountain of 16 miles to cross. Today beginning snow on the summit 18 inches deep. We camped within 2 miles of Whiskey Creek, having traveled 14 miles.
December 3, Monday. Cold and snowing. This morning we started early. Traveled to Whiskey Creek 2 miles, thence over Mount Robin ["Rubbing"?] to Grave Creek, 8 miles, thence up the creek 4 miles and encamped for the night.
December 4, Tuesday. Raining today. We arrived at the Grave Creek House or Fort Leland with our wounded man, having carried him 40 miles in two days and a half over mountains and through snow and rain. Encamped at Fort Leland.
December 5, Wednesday. Continues to rain. Going to remain at this place until after the election of colonel and lieutenant colonel which will come off on Thursday. The candidates have been shouting here today, telling us their views and what they would do if elected. If they make their words good, woe unto the Indians.
December 6, Thursday. Cold and snowing. Capt. Keeney's company went mostly for Capt. Williams for colonel and Major Martin for lieutenant colonel.
December 7, Friday. Continues to snow. Today received the returns of the election from the South. Williams elected Colonel.
December 8, Saturday. Continues to snow. Today we were ordered to march back into the Umpqua to where we could obtain sustenance for ourselves and animals as we could not get either one here. Snow on the hills where we had been herding our horses is about 2¼ feet deep. We think that we made a lucky escape in getting out of the mountains before the storm.
December 9, Sunday. This morning we started on the march for the Umpqua leaving our wounded man in the hospital with 3 men to take care of him. Rained all day. Snow melting very fast. The creeks all very full, some of them swimming our animals. Camped at the canyon for the night.
December 10, Monday. Today we marched through the canyon, the roads very muddy. Encamped on Canyon Creek, 1 mile from the mouth of the canyon in Umpqua Valley.
December 11, Tuesday. Remain in camp today. Provision scarce. We have no flour; we are living now on rice and meat. Capt. Buoy's company is camped here with us. They have provisions plenty, but take care to eat it themselves.
December 12, Wednesday. This morning we had half rations of flour for our breakfast. We do not know when we will get any more. It seems as though the quartermasters and packmasters are trying to manage so as to starve us out. There are several pack trains here idle and have been 5 or 6 days and nothing to hinder them from going back.
December 13, Thursday. A rainy and disagreeable day. This morning the pack animals that were laying here started north for supplies of provisions for ourselves and forage for our animals. [Remainder illegible.]
December 14, Friday. Continues to rain this morning. The mountains all around are covered with snow. General Barnum and Colonel Martin passed here today on their way to Deer Creek. This morning we were out of meat, and the quartermaster would not get any, so there being some very fine hogs running about the camp, we just killed one.
December 15, Saturday. Continues to rain. Cold and disagreeable weather.
December 16, Sunday. This morning we are out of meat, and having made several applications to the quartermaster for meat, and could not get it, Captain had discovered in the quartermaster's house a keg of syrup which he called for, and the quartermaster swore that he should not have it. Captain swore that he would. He came to camp and took a few boys with him and just walked in, carried it out, and said, "Here boys, take it," and Mr. Quartermaster took care not to cheep.
December 17, Monday. Cold and disagreeable this morning. Mr. Bolen sent out 4 men to hunt up what government cattle he had in his care, going to take to grass, as they had got so poor that the volunteers would not eat them. The cattle are about 4 miles distant. After they had gone a while they returned very much frightened with only a part of their cattle and said that they had heard a cap snap near them which they supposed to be an Indian. We think that they are afraid and want us to hunt the cattle for them.
December 18, Tuesday. Today Captain Keeney received a letter from Lieutenant Yates at Grave Creek. He says he does not expect to get here for something like a week.
December 19, Wednesday. This morning Lieutenant McKinney started back to Fort Leland. This evening a pack train arrived with clothing.
December 20, Thursday. Cold and snowing. The pack train that came here yesterday said that he would stay here a few days till after the storm, but Captain Keeney told them that they must go on to Fort Leland, for his men that were there were out of provision and destitute of clothing and consequently in a state of sufferance.
December 21, Friday. The weather very disagreeable. This morning Capt. Buoy's company left here, a part of them to go down toward Deer Creek to take some squaws that the citizens had become much alarmed about. The remainder of the company moved some 4 or 5 miles for the purpose of getting a better camp.
December 22, Saturday. Snowing this morning. Today 2 of the men that were detached to go with the pack train came back. One of the men was sick. They only went as far as Cow Creek in 2 days.
December 23, Sunday. Continues to snow, but it melts pretty near as fast as it falls.
December 24, Monday. Very cold, the ground frozen hard. Today there is considerable of murmuring in camp about the way we are getting treated here. We are very poorly clad, and in fact we have no suitable equipment for a winter campaign and it seems that there is no exertion used for our relief with the exception of Captain.
December 25, Tuesday. This morning the quartermaster of this place brought out a bucket full of brandy and treated our company.
December 26, Wednesday. Last night 9 of the men that went to escort the pack to Renoise [Vannoy's?] arrived.
December 27, Thursday. This morning we left the canyon.
December 28, Friday. Arrived at Roseburg.
December 29, Saturday. Left Roseburg.
December 30, Sunday. Crossed the Calapooya Mountains.
December 31, Monday. Arrived at Eugene.
January 10, 1856, Thursday. Met today at Calapooya, according to the orders of our Captain, made our monthly report, returned home with orders to meet at the same place the first day of February.
February 1. Met today at Calapooya and was discharged from the service by order of the Governor.
Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 34, pages 345-358
The following memoir is copied from Donna Clark's Forney Clark Genealogy site. For more about Harvey Robbins, see Kevin Mittge's Robbins Roots.
By Harvey Robbins
We pulled out from our home (Decatur County, Indiana) on the 19th of March, 1852, arriving at what is now Salem on the 8th December following, after enduring many hardships and much suffering, having lost two brothers on the trail. We were harassed from the beginning to the end by marauding Indians stealing our stock. They kept us constantly on guard day and night.
Early on the trail our people were attacked by the dread of cholera, and many of our friends and relatives died of that disease. I helped bury three cousins in one grave, all grown women, and from that time loved ones line the Old Oregon Trail.
From the time of the Whitman Massacre in 1847 in the Walla Walla Valley the inhabitants of Oregon were startled by fiendish murders and massacres on the trails and in the outlying settlements. All through the Rogue River country in Southern Oregon and along the Old California Trail, they took a great toll.
In 1853 General Lane went into that with a small force of men and at Table Rock, near Rogue River, he engaged a large force of Indians, with the loss of several men and the old General himself severely wounded. The Indians, however, were not subdued; occasional depredations continued until 1855. Early in October of that year Governor Curry made a hurried call for volunteers. By this time I had become of age and gone to Linn County, and taken up a donation land claim. Then the call reached Linn County, the news spread rapidly, runners going in all directions, one coming to me where I was plowing on the prairie and informed me of the urgent need for haste and action. I at once unhooked my team from the plow, turned them loose and went hurriedly to a young fellow who was working a claim a couple of miles from where I was. He had two excellent horses for the service. I secured one of them; we hastily rode away to nearest point where the men congregated. We there met a number of other young fellows, and all of us signed at once the necessary papers. We were then ready at a moment's notice to fall into line.
By ten o'clock the next morning we had one hundred and ten ready to go on forced march to Rogue River and the country near the California line several hundred miles south. We all furnished our own equipment, horse, gun, and ammunition. We mounted and rode rapidly out through the Willamette Valley. When we came to Cow Creek Valley, we came into the path of the Indian raid and there we beheld a most sickening sight. The inhabitants were murdered or driven from their homes, which were in ashes. We saw the signs of the most cruel murder and torture that Indian deviltry could invent. As I now remember only two houses left unburned, they were where there had been enough men to stand the Indians off. On leaving Cow Creek we climbed quite a hill, just on top of which there was a terrible sight. A man by the name of Bailey with two or three large wagons, loaded with provisions for the California mines, and his men had been most brutally murdered. The oxen that were drawing the wagons had been shot in the yokes, and wagons burned with the contents the Indians could not take with them. There was also a large drove of hogs shot down. By this time our blood was boiling and at this point our Captain took the precaution to order a front guard, and called for volunteers for that duty. Five of us, young chaps, stepped out, and were ordered to proceed and keep about one mile in advance. We knew that about four miles [away] there was a road house, and we had not gone far when we were startled with what we thought was firing of musketry. Thinking that the station, ahead in the distance, was being attacked, we pushed ahead rapidly; arriving at the place, we were informed there had been an engagement going on for two days and nights between a large force of Indians and a small force of volunteers and also a squad of regulars. The boys had not eaten a bite during the two days and nights. We were wild for the fray; although the sun was setting, we tied our horses to some nearby trees and started on a very dim trail through a dense forest, hoping we would get there in time to get some of the fun, but as dusk came on the firing ceased. However we pushed ahead the best we could, having much trouble following the dim trail as it was intensely dark. We hadn't gone far when we met the men coming in, and right here I want to say, I have not the words to describe their famished and worn looks. We pressed on to the battle ground to aid in getting the dead and wounded into the station which took all night and part of the next day. There were forty-two killed and wounded in the engagement. We never did learn the number of Indians killed, as they pulled out that same night for the Rogue River country. We were not provided with ammunition and provisions to follow them at once, so we were compelled to wait for orders, for food supplies for ourselves and horses. In a few days the supplies came, and again we took the old California trail and some twenty miles to the road house on Grave Creek to Rogue River. Twelve of us volunteered, Captain Keeney ordered to go on foot with light equipment to ascertain, if possible, the route the Indians had taken.
On arriving there we found the Indians had not gone up the river, but found the old Indian trail impassable for horses, so we footmen continued on down the river over a most torturous trail to Whiskey Creek and there awaited the coming of the horsemen the next day. Upon their arrival we continued our march over a mountain trail. While on this mountain we discovered a smoke from the Indian camp across the river in a dense forest and in an almost inaccessible place.
After passing over the mountain we came into beautiful rolling meadows. We came over the meadows and down to the river and there camped for the night, about one mile below the Indian camp; here we were reinforced by a company from Lane County, commanded by Captain Buoy. We were constructing rafts to cross the river, and while busily engaged in putting the raft together, we were surprised by a volley from the Indians at short range. Three men went down, one killed, one badly wounded and the third slightly wounded. That night we were ordered back to the camp three miles from the river. There we buried our dead comrades. The officers held a council of war and decided it was improvident to undertake to dislodge the Indians that winter and issued orders for all to be ready to march early the next morning. That night there fell twelve inches of wet, heavy snow which made it tough on us boys who were afoot, and had to carry one of the wounded men on a litter forty miles over rough, high mountains.
After three days tramping through the snow we were back in the station at Grave Creek where we found comfortable quarters for our wounded men. Here we were delighted to find our horses. There being no feed obtainable for them, we were ordered back toward the valley which we made at easy stages, until we reached the Willamette Valley where we were permitted to go to our homes, with orders to keep ourselves in readiness to again come at a moment's call to a place on rendezvous.
On the first day of February we were called together at Brownsville by our First Sergeant, our Captain having been deprived of his commission for disbanding his company. So we were all given honorable discharges and told there had been a new company mustered in a day or two before that had started for Walla Walla, Snake River and the Upper Columbia River country. So my comrade and I decided we would follow and join that company. I bought a new horse for which I paid $240.00. It was after two o'clock when we got our discharges; we already had guns and blankets with us, and we immediately mounted and started for Salem where we found our company and were warmly welcomed, for we had become known as dependable fighters. Our company was known as Company D, Oregon Mounted Volunteers. My comrade was Samuel B. Gregg. Early that day we were called to mount and took up our march by the way of Portland and Sandy River. Thence up the great Columbia River, through the gorge and Cascade Mountains to the Dalles. Thence over the plains to the Walla Walla Valley. There we found two or three companies awaiting the arrival of more troops, the Indians having promised of a big fight in the spring. Supplies had to come from Portland by pack mules and ox teams which were necessarily slow. In the meantime we were doing much scouting. There were forty men detailed to go to Snake River and escort the Nez Perce Indians down with one hundred ponies that the government had purchased from the Old Nez Perce Indian Chief. The Nez Perce were friendly with the whites at that time.
On that trip I met young Chief Joseph. He was but a lad then and a likable fellow. His father had put him in charge of the horses which he delivered in a businesslike manner. He appeared so opposed to war that I was much surprised when he took the warpath. He surely could be cruel when he got mad. A party of his warriors swooped down on a settlement on the Touchet River and killed men, women, and children. I had a friend among them. These Indians killed all of one family except one little child and cut out the tongue of the child and left it alive. (After side-stepping to speak for Chief Joseph I will resume my story)
On our return we found the men had completed four new boats; several ox teams were arriving. The officers commandeered four of the teams to haul the boats across to the Snake River to a point where we expected to meet the Indians in force. But by this time we arrived we found but a few camps there; they pulled up hurriedly and lit out across the country for the Columbia River which was twenty-five miles west. We got across the river and gave chase but night came on and we were obliged to give up further pursuit until morning. When morning broke two hundred men were out early. Getting out on the sagebrush plains we sighted Indians riding apparently in all directions. We rushed toward them as rapidly as our horses could go, trying to see who could be first to get under fire, or in other words see who would get the first scalp. Seeing that the Indians were not going to stand for an engagement, but were probably preparing to lead us into ambush, we broke into small squads and gave chase in several directions. Five of us dashed after a bunch that was waving blankets and bantering us but before we were in firing range they fled. They took a course down the Snake River, this being about the location of where the town of Pasco now stands. We continued the chase to near the junction of the Snake and Columbia rivers. By this time the sun was setting so we realized further chase would be fruitless. We turned and went back to the Snake River and took an old Indian trail that led us up the river. We had not proceeded far when we came to a rocky point which extended into the river, so we had to ride up over this point. It was now getting quite dark. I was riding in advance, and just as I reached level ground, I was surprised to find myself surrounded by an angry mob of Indians. At this time I felt something pierce the thick part of my thigh and on putting my hand down I found an Indian arrow sticking there.* I was plying my spurs freely to my spirited horse which was rearing and plunging wildly. I used my rifle vigorously in clubbing the Indians off and at the same time they snapped a flintlock gun that failed to fire except to flash in the pan. The gun was an old Hudson Bay rifle such as many of the Indians were armed with at that time.
They were now making frantic efforts to get hold of my horse's bridle and they had failed so far to dismount me. I then dashed back up the hill to the crest of the point where I met my comrade, who hesitated for a moment for a moment while I exhibited the blood-stained arrow. Just at this time one of the boys sang out, "Look out boys, here comes Indians behind us." So our only chance of escape was in scaling the mountain immediately to our left, which was very steep and rocky. The hill being too steep to carry the men up, we dismounted; as I was unable to walk, one man led my horse and another from behind pushed and made my horse take me over the rough places. We finally arrived in camp late that night and Doctor Smith dressed my wound. The next morning the doctor ordered me sent out by ox teams that were sent out by way of old Fort Walla Walla. This old fort at the mouth of the Walla Walla River, built of dobey (adobe), was first used by fur traders many years ago.
So I was put in one of the prairie schooners with my blankets spread down in the bottom of the wagon box. There were six yoke of oxen to each wagon, all young steers except the wheelers and the leaders. They were driven by two horse men to each wagon. There was no broken road. Each man armed with a goading stick with a sharp nail in the point. Orders were given to start and away we went on the run, over the hills and gulches, sagebrush and sand dunes, arriving very late that night. The Indians had burned the buildings and nothing was left but the dobey wall. Here I was domiciled for three weeks before I could get around.
By this time our troops had returned from the Upper Columbia, worn and hungry, provisions being about exhausted. Our officers ordered out a detachment of twelve men to proceed to the Umatilla River to search for some Indian cattle that had been reported seen. We were sent out on half rations for five days, but before that time was up the "grub" was all gone. Then we had to resort to all kinds of skirmishes for food. We searched through the foothills of the Blue Mountains and Upper Umatilla River, but no cattle.
By this time we were getting desperate with hunger and we resorted to eating anything we could possible kill. I killed a wolf, some badgers and some birds, among which was a crow. We ate a great many large black crickets which were not too bad if we took time to pull off their legs, and put them in a hot frying pan when they would roll over a few times and pop open. With salt and pepper they were fairly palatable. They were almost as large as the thumb of your hand, very numerous on the hills.
After intense hunger and anxiety our troops arrived with a supply of provisions. On the north side of the Snake River the main command was divided, one half ordered to proceed to the Yakima Valley and from there to Dalles. On entering the Yakima Valley they were surprised by a force of Indians with a consequent loss of several men, among whom was Captain Hembree, one of our most dependable fighters.
Proceeding on the march, camp was pitched the next night among some beautiful hills, taking precaution to first tie all horses. Next morning at daybreak the horses were turned loose under a light guard. They had just reached a little plateau and the guards had dismounted, when they were startled by the murderous yells of a large force of Indians mounted. These devils had the cunning to ride between the guardsmen and their horses by jerking the lariats from them, so away all the horses fled with the Indians in hot pursuit. The troops were left to take what equipment they could carry on their backs. The defeat and loss had been reported to us by scouts, so we renewed our vigilance and kept our horses well guarded day and night
After two days travel we camped at the mouth of Alkali Canyon, two miles above what is now the town of Echo. This was formerly an Indian Agency and known as Fort Henriette. Just after dawn one morning we were awaking by the booming of the cannon at the fort. To say there was excitement would be putting it too tame; some were half dressed, and some put their saddles on their horses without any blankets, and the captain sang out, "First ready, first go." Away we went in twos and threes. Approaching the fort some of the troops were motioning us towards the hill which was a short distance ahead. We dashed up this hill, and there lay the man who had taken out the horses. The Indians had brutally murdered him. They had scalped both his head and face and most shamefully mutilated his body.
From this point we could see the Indians not more than a mile away. We madly rushed toward them. Some of us who were in the lead and within rifle range shot a couple of the red rascals. Their comrades, seeing them fall, rushed back and threw them on behind other Indian riders and we lost our coveted trophies. By this time they were going in a dead run with the horses they had stolen from the fort. We continued a running fight for four or five miles. However with their fresh horses we knew there was no chance to get any scalps or to recover our horses, so we went back muchly chagrined.
We returned to our camp and gathered up our effects we had so hurriedly left and at once resumed our march to The Dalles. From here we continued on down the Columbus River to Portland and then to Salem, where we were honorably discharged. We then went to our respective homes. So after following the Indians for at least six hundred miles, and suffering many trying hardships, we were compelled to lay by awaiting further orders, and although we realized the Indians were somewhat subdued, they were not conquered.
NOTE: (In looking over what I have written I find that I have not half told the terrible atrocities and devastation left in the wake of the murderous redskins.)
*Captain T. R. Cornelius' report of April 3, 1856 mentions Robbins' wounding, on March 13th. See the Pioneer and Democrat, Olympia, Washington Territory, April 25, 1856, page 1
OREGON OVERLAND TOURISTS RECALLEDIn an old copy of the Decatur Press of Sept. 9, 1853, is an account of the trip from Sandcreek township this county of an overland party that hit the trail in 1852. Jacob Robbins, John Henry and families and others formed the company. The article was written by William F. Robbins and tells of the last few weeks of the trip, which required in those days about six months.
He tells of meeting near the American Falls on the way Joseph McKinney and family from Greensburg and Lewis Demoss. Down near Salmon Falls he said Samuel A. Martin, a stepson of James Conner, died. Also speaks of John H. Hamilton and Frank Matlock being very ill. Dr. Willard was called by George Jackson, who rode several miles to catch him. Malvina Robbins was also ill about the same time. He also mentions Dow and William Sharp as members of the party.
When they reached The Dalles he says Father and John Henry concluded to spend the winter there. Flour sold for $10 a barrel, beef 25 cents a pound, pickled pork 50 cents, which was deemed high. The writer says he reached Portland Nov. 12, 1852. He tells of the sad death on Nov. 17 of Gilman, a young man who seemed to be a favorite of the party. This was at Willamette City, where the company settled. The young man was buried without the services of a minister, as none was to be had.
Greensburg Standard, Greensburg, Indiana, June 11, 1920, page 5 William F. Robbins' letter was serialized on page 1 of the September 2 and 9, 1853 issues.
ROBBINS FAMILY REUNION IN OREGONThe Oregon Journal of Portland, Ore., contains an account of a reunion of four Robbins brothers and three sisters who left Sandcreek township in 1852 and went overland by the ox-team route to Oregon. They were small children when they left here 58 years ago, and the fact that they are all alive after this long lapse of years is truly remarkable.
Seven Decatur County People Who Went Overland in 1852 Have Relatives Here.
The paper contained a picture of the four brothers, who are sons of "Red House Jake" Robbins, one of Decatur County's early settlers. They are cousins of William F. Robbins of this city and are related to all the Robbins kindred in Decatur County. The notice follows:
"Molalla, Ore., July 17.--Four brothers and three sisters, all Oregon pioneers of 1852, will gather on the old home farm July 25 for a reunion of the Robbins family. The brothers are Harvey Robbins, 86, of Portland, the oldest; Oliver and Levi Robbins of Molalla and Martin Robbins of Oregon City, all more than 80 years old. The sisters are Mrs. Jane Gilliam of Pendleton, Mrs. Newton Loveridge of Weston and Mrs. T. C. Benson of Portland.
"All are children of Jacob and Sarah Robbins, with whom they crossed the plains. Jacob Robbins was a distant relative of Abraham Lincoln and played with the great President during his boyhood. Harvey Robbins is also an Indian war veteran and was seriously wounded in the hip by an arrow in a brush with the Indians."
Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, Indiana, July 26, 1920, page 1
The first of Jacob [Robbins'] family to come to this county was "Little Jakey," alias "Hog Jake" or "Red House Jake," but better known as "Oregon Jake." His son, Harvey Robbins of Hood River, Oregon, now in his ninetieth year, says that his father told him that he came to Indiana when a very small boy. This Jake Robbins was born in Kentucky in the same year, and in the same neighborhood where Abraham Lincoln was born, and is said to be a cousin of the Great Emancipator. It is altogether probable that his father, who was known as "Big Toe" Jake, moved to Scott County the second time about the same time that Thomas Lincoln moved to Spencer County since they were related by marriage and had lived near each other for many years. Sure it is that "Little Jakey" ran away as related by his son, and came to this county and to the home of his Uncle "Billy" on Sandcreek; he must have come in the early 'twenties. He lived for a time with his uncle, and then with his cousin Nathaniel, until he was grown, when he purchased 80 acres of land at Pinhook, where he continued to live until 1852 when he, with a large company of relatives and neighbors, crossed the continent and settled in the then Territory of Oregon.
"Oregon Jake"'s mother was a daughter of James or William Hanks, who was a brother of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, mother of Abraham Lincoln, and it may be of interest to you to know that this uncle of the great Lincoln once resided near the little hamlet of New Richmond, nicknamed Pinhook.
W. F. Robbins, "A History of the Robbins Families," Greensburg Standard, Greensburg, Indiana, June 16, 1922, page 6. Reprinted from the Greensburg Daily News of June 13.
Last revised November 30, 2019