The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

On the Applegate Trail
Following the Trail in less heralded years. See also the pages for 1846 and 1853, as well as the Ben Wright page.

Mr. Harry L. Wells
    Dear Sir
        In compliance with your request made some time ago I now attempt to fulfill the promise then made to you. I am sorry that I could not have fulfilled my promise sooner, but your request came to me at a very busy time, and a man of my age does not feel much like writing at night after working in the field all day.
    The company that left Snake River near the mouth of Raft River on the 22nd day of August 1847 consisted of 11 wagons and the following named persons, to wit:
John Grimsley, wife and five children
Abraham Coryell and two sons, Lewis and George, both grown
Benjamin Davis, wife and six children
Ira Wells, wife and child. The child fell out of the wagon on the north bank of the North Umpqua River and both wheels ran across its head and killed it and the child was hauled to where Eugene City is now and buried on the land claim of E. F. Skinner, the former proprietor of Eugene City.
Daniel Wells and wife
William Wyatt, wife and two or three children
William Aldrich and wife, son
Andrew Welsh, wife and two or three children
William Johnson, an old bachelor
William Risk, a single man
John Bonser, a single man
Daniel Cook, a single man
Thomas Smith, a single man
The above persons, my own name included, compose the company with which I came through the Modoc country in the fall of 1847. Quite a number have passed to that bourne from whence there is no return.
    Some of them were still living at last accounts:
John Grimsley, Corvallis, Benton County, Ogn.
William Wyatt, Philomath, Benton County, Ogn.
Ira Wells, Elkton, Douglas County, Ogn.
And the last account I have [for] Lewis Coryell was at Pleasant Hill, Lane County, Ogn. I presume there are others still living, but I do not know their address. I suppose some of them had middle names, which I do not remember hearing.
    Now as to incidents. After we left Snake River, the first of any note, we camped near what has since been called the City of Rocks, and the Indians either stole an ox or it strayed off so that we did not find it.
    On the evening of the 29th of August we traveled late to find water and consequently did not get up very early the next morning, and when we came to get up our cattle we found three of the oxen were missing. Search being made, the trail was struck and it was found that the Indians had started them for Salt Lake. Mr. Grimsley and son, a lad about fifteen years old, struck the trail on foot and started in pursuit, and in the meantime four other men of the company on horseback had also struck the trail, but instead of following them up came to camp and said if anyone wanted to go in pursuit we could have their horses. Four of us mounted and started immediately and took the trail, and when about 8 or 10 miles from camp we met Mr. Grimsley and son and two other members of the company who had struck the trail unknown to us, bringing the oxen back and also the Indians who we kept under guard that night. One of the oxen had been shot nearly through with an arrow that Mr. Grimsley drew from him, but it striking no vital part it did not appear to hurt the ox much, as he worked in the team steady from there to the Willamette Valley. The above incident occurred on the headwaters of the Humboldt River, at that time known by the name of Mary's or Ogden's River.
    On the 5th of September, getting into camp late in consequence of crossing the mountains to avoid crossing the Humboldt River twice, and not having seen any Indian signs since we left the head of the river, we did not put out any guard, and the next morning found one of the oxen within one hundred yards of the wagons partly skinned and a part of the meat taken and six other oxen missing, which we never recovered although five or six of the men were out all day and until after midnight the next night. We concluded from that on there should be a strict guard kept day and night.
    Leaving the Humboldt and crossing what was called the ash plain past Black Rock and the hot springs in said plain to High Rock Canyon without anything of note transpiring until the morning of the 19th of September, just as we were yoking up in the morning it was rumored that Mrs. Welch was sick, which proved to be true. A child was born to her that morning. We were then camped in High Rock Canyon, mother and child doing well. On the morning of the 22nd we were camped in what was called the little pass and as the stock were immediately around the wagons the guard were called in to breakfast so as to expedite things, and while at breakfast the Indians drove off two more oxen and Lewis Coryell, the owner of one of the oxen, getting on the trail followed them a short distance and its getting pretty warm pulled off his coat and laid it on a rock and said he did not go to exceed one hundred yards beyond but when he came back his coat was gone, and it appearing that the Indians were watching us Ira Wells said it would be a good plan to waylay the camp ground and kill some of them. Upon this suggestion George Coryell, Daniel Cook and the writer volunteered to remain and just as the teams started Mr. Grimsley's son concluded to remain with us. We did not have to wait long after the wagons left before two Indians came on to the ground, one of which was killed and the other fell at the firing of the guns but succeeded in getting away. Undoubtedly a very foolish act, but we were all young, and [it was] an act for which we received a severe scolding by the old men of the party. On the morning of the 24th we were alarmed by the cry of "Indians!" and found them to be all around us. They cut up a great many antics but did not come within gunshot. This took place at the foot of the mountains on the other side of Goose Lake, and on the other side of the mountains. The Indians did not molest us until we started down this side of the mountains, when the soil being light and the wind blowing at a fearful rate we raised a fearful dust and then the Indians began to shoot arrows among us but they did no damage, although there were some pretty close calls. The following night the guard were saluted with a few arrows, one passing through one of the guards' overcoat.
    From this on until we came to Lost River the first sight we would get of the Indians they would be running away from us and yelling with all their might. On the evening of the 30th we camped on Lost River about three miles below the ford, and during the night an ox was shot from across the river with a poisoned arrow which was pulled out of him the next morning. The ox died the following night, although the arrow did not penetrate to exceed half an inch.
    On the second of October while passing around the Klamath Lake the Indians tried by means of flags and signals to lure us into ambush, but did not succeed.
    Nothing of importance transpired in passing through the Rogue River country, although there was a good many Indians with us most of the time. We got through the Canyon with but little trouble, although it was such a bugaboo to the emigration the year before. Passed through the Umpqua Valley with no particular incident except the death of Mr. Wells' child as spoken of in the names of the persons composing the company.
    We arrived in the head of the Willamette Valley on the evening of the 24 of October 1847 and at E. F. Skinner's, the first white residence, about noon on the 26th.
    Now as to the company ahead of us that year, Captain Levi Scott was pilot, and the company was called the Davidson Company, a Mr. Davidson being at the head of it.
    The company we passed near Lost River, who were trying to get down to California, who subsequently came through to Oregon, John Lebo, an old neighbor of mine in Indiana, is the only name that I can be positive about. The last company that came through on the above route in 1847 the following were members of the company: David D. Davis and family, the two Mr. Briggs and their wives, father and son. The old gentlemen was living at last accounts at Springfield, Lane County.
Prior F. Blair and family, present residence Eugene City
James Frederick and family
John Aiken and family, residence Salem
James Chapin, Latham, Lane County
Cornelius Hills, a young man
Charnell Mulligan, a young man
Wilkison Gouldy, a young man
Joseph Downer, a young man
John Gilliam
George Gilliam
Of the company that came through in 1851:
Cornelius Hills and wife, the same man as came through in 1847, he having went back to the States and married
Wm. Riddle and family, residence Riddle, Douglas Co.
Sam. B. Briggs and family, the son is living at Canyonville, Douglas County
Thomas Smith
    Wilbur, Douglas Co., Oregon
        Sept. 13th, 1884

Mr. Wells
    Dear Sir
        Having to the best of my ability complied with your request and hoping although late it may be of some service to you and hoping you may succeed in writing a more correct history than Walling's History of Southern Oregon, which the more I read the more I became disgusted with its errors and falsehoods, a perfect disgrace for any man to publish as history, especially while so many are living that knows it to be false. I have not seen a patron of Mr. Walling's yet but would be glad to get half price for his book. The mildest term I have heard used yet is fraud in regard to it. There are so many errors in regard to this vicinity that I do not wonder of people being disgusted with it.
    Any service I can render you will be cheerfully done at any time when I can command the time to do it. Hoping you will acknowledge the receipt of this and whether it will be of any service to you,
I remain
    Yours very truly
        Thomas Smith
P.S. I neglected to get suitable paper and have written on such as I had, as I live some distance from town.
Mss 806, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

    "I was named Shadrack, but everyone calls me 'Shad,'" said Mr. Hudson of Roseburg. "I was born in Michigan in November, 1830. In 1834 my people went to Ohio. When I was 17 years old we started for Independence Mo. This was the spring of 1847. We joined Maher Magoon's wagon train, which was going to the Willamette Valley. There were about 100 wagons in the train, but they soon divided up, those that wanted to go forward becoming impatient about waiting for the slower ones. Our wagon, with 16 others, stayed together.
    "We came by the Southern Route, passing Summer Lake, Silver Lake, Christmas Lake, Goose Lake and Klamath Lake, and crossing the mountains into the Rogue River country. One night when we were camped in the Goose Lake country the Indians attacked us and killed 16 or 17 head of our stock. We had to abandon several of our wagons and double up the best we could. As we came through the Rogue River country the Indians attacked us again, but fortunately we were able to stand them off. They followed us until we entered the Cow Creek Canyon. [Though often referred to as "Cow Creek Canyon," the trail actually follows the path of Canyon Creek.] There was no road through the canyon, although a party had come through the year before. It took us two days to come through Cow Creek canyon. The year before the emigrants had been piloted through by Captain Levi Scott and Jesse Applegate." [The 1846 train was piloted by Levi Scott, but not Jesse Applegate, who went on ahead.]

Fred Lockley, "In Earlier Days," Oregon Journal, Portland, December 20, 1913, page 6

    "Early in the spring of 1847 Father bought a big wagon and three yoke of cattle and secured an outfit to cross the plains, and we started for California. Most of the people who crossed the plains in 1847 were bound for Oregon, because the boundary dispute between Great Britain and the United States had been settled and there seemed to be a good prospect that Congress would pass the donation land act soon. Captain Wiggins was in charge of our wagon train, which was bound for California. Wiggins had made the trip across the plains before. He divided the men into watches and ordered them to stand guard each night to prevent the Indians from stealing our stock. After some weeks had gone by and no attempt was made to steal the stock the men rebelled against having to stand guard and lose their sleep after a hard day's travel. Captain Wiggins insisted that his orders be carried out. The men ordered to stand guard said nothing, but decided it was safe to go to sleep. The next morning a lot of the stock was missing and 16 of the cattle had arrows sticking in their backs or sides. I remember this very distinctly, because one of the women, when she saw her cow, of which she was very fond, driven in with five arrows stuck in her sides, felt so bad that she cried and said, 'Oh, my beautiful cow!' The cow was moaning and was so badly wounded they couldn't do anything for her.
    "Captain Wiggins called a meeting and insisted that as long as he was captain the men would have to obey his instructions. Some of the men refused to do so, so Captain Wiggins yoked up his oxen and struck out by himself. My father told him, 'I will stay with you, Captain' and so our wagon went along. Of course, it was a very foolhardy thing for us to strike out alone in an Indian country in this way. With Captain Wiggins was a young man from California, a Spaniard or a Mexican, who had been East to secure an education and who was returning to California. We met a mountain man who told us of a cutoff that would bring us to the headwaters of the Sacramento River in five camps. After traveling steadily 25 days we concluded that either the mountain man was mistaken or we had misunderstood his directions. We decided to turn north and make our way to Oregon. I remember we met Jesse Applegate in Southern Oregon.
    "Another thing I remember very distinctly is the terrible time we had in coming through the canyon--I presume it was the Cow Creek canyon. Our wagons had to travel up the bed of the stream, and on both sides of the stream were steep and rocky walls. My mother told me I had better get out and walk. Father thought this was a reflection on his driving. He told me to get into the wagon again and ride. My mother said, 'I am afraid the wagon will tip over and she will be killed.' But Father made me get in, and said he would attend to his part of the work, which was driving the wagon. Several times the wagon nearly overturned, for there were big boulders in the bed of the creek, but at last we got out of the canyon and had better going."

Maria Morfitt Locey, quoted by Fred Lockley, "Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man,"
Oregon Journal, Portland, March 29, 1923, page 8

    In the spring of 1847 Lester Hulin left St. Joe, Mo., with a party of emigrants to cross the plains to the Willamette Valley. They came by way of the southern route. In a brush with the Indians in Southern Oregon Miss Ann Davis received two arrow wounds. She later married C. Hendricks, proprietor of Hendricks' ferry on the McKenzie River.

Fred Lockley, "
Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man,"
Oregon Journal, Portland, December 31, 1932, page 4


    "We started westward from Utah on the 12th of May, 1849. I will never forget crossing the Mojave [sic] desert. At the sink of the Humboldt my father, with a big butcher knife, cut 16 bundles of grass, one bundle for each of the 16 oxen. He also filled our barrels with water. We started across the desert at 5 o'clock that evening and traveled till noon the next day, coming out at Ragtown, where the river once more emerges and flows on top of the earth.
    "The thing that impresses me most vividly about that trip is that all the way across the desert we saw dead oxen pulled to one side of the road. We also saw abandoned wagons, furniture and supplies pulled off to one side of the road. One day while we had halted in the road to eat a cold lunch one of our cows went into a
patch of willows to graze. Suddenly Father said, 'I don't hear the cowbell. Maybe she is mired down.' Father went into the willows, where he found our bell cow standing spraddled out. The Indians had shot two arrows into her, one in each shoulder. One arrow was buried clear up to the feather. The arrows had bound her muscles so she couldn't move her legs. Father pulled the arrows out, but the flint heads would not come out, the hide was so tough. We didn't expect she would live, but Father brought her out, tied her to the back of the wagon, and though she was pretty lame for a while, she pulled through.
    "Nine days later one of the herders came in from where the cattle were grazing and said, 'The Indians are trying to stampede the cattle.' The men started out to help the herders. I didn't like to be left behind, so I went along, There were about 40 Indians The Indians crossed the Humboldt River, leaving two of their bows and two quivers of arrows on the river bank. Two of the young men in our party volunteered to swim across the river and flush the Indians. One of them climbed up on the bank, which overhung the river, while the other landed some distance below him. The one on the bank saw a little movement in the brush, so he called to the young man below him, 'I believe an Indian is crouched under the bank. Come up and run him out and I'll get him.' The young man on the river bank came up slowly. The Indian didn't jump out till our man was within 10 feet of him. The Indian jumped into the river and held to the limb of a tree. The two young men called out to the men on the other shore to shoot him. However, when he came up all that showed above the water was his nose, so one of the young men went above where he was, and pointed down to where the Indian was hanging to the root of a tree, which kept him from floating down the stream. The men began shooting at him. Finally one of them hit his nose. The Indian let go, and as he floated down, one of our men shot him through the head.
    "We had another adventure with the Indians on Green River, before this incident happened on the Humboldt. The Indians killed one of our cattle and were skinning it. The herder gave the alarm. The men in the wagon train rode out to save the cattle and to kill Indians. One of the men left in such a hurry he didn't put his saddle or bridle on his horse, but rode it with a rope around the horse's nose. When the men rode after the Indians the horse thought he was in a race, so he bolted on ahead of the others. As he ran past the Indians, the Indians shot at his rider, shooting him in the back. He had three bullets in him when the men of our party got to where he had fallen. They buried him where he fell. Some of the men wanted to take the beef the Indians had killed into camp, but the others were afraid the Indians had shot the ox with a poisoned arrow, so they decided to let it stay where it was."

George Washington Root, quoted by Fred Lockley, "Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, September 21, 1926, page 10


Washington City, December 12, 1851.
To his excellency the President of the United States:
    SIR: A sense of duty prompts me to call your early attention to the peculiar condition of things in Oregon. I have been a citizen of that Territory for nearly three years, have traveled the settled portion of it all over, had much to do with the Indians, and know them, perhaps, as well as any other man, and understand the wants of the American citizens there, and can say to you that for their protection, and for the protection of others emigrating there, troops to be garrisoned on the great road from St. Joseph, via Fort Hall, to the Dalles of the Columbia, and also on the road from Oregon to California, are absolutely indispensable for the protection of life and property. I know that I need but call your attention to the condition of things there, and present the facts within my knowledge, to secure your aid and prompt action in the premises. The suffering this season for the want of troops to protect emigrants and others en route to Oregon, and from Oregon to California, has been terrible, and certainly this government ought, and will I have no doubt afford protection to her citizens in a country so remote and exposed as are all persons traveling either on the emigrant road to Oregon, or on the road from Oregon to California. There are but these two roads south of the Columbia on which troubles are to be apprehended. The shape of the country and its stupendous mountains are insurmountable barriers to the location of roads of importance. A garrison of two or three companies of horse--one infantry, if a mounted force cannot be had--on each of these roads, at the Grand Ronde, for instance, on the emigrant or northern road, and in the Rogue River Valley, on the California or southern road, should be established. The moral influence that the establishment of the posts would produce upon the minds of the Indians would do much towards keeping peace with them, and afford the protection to American citizens that they are so justly entitled to.
    It may be well here to mention that the road from Oregon to California forks in the Rogue River Valley--the main road--passes south of the great Shasta mountain to the source of the Sacramento, thence down that river to its great valley, and to Sacramento city; the north branch passes by Klamath Lake to Fort Hall. A small party of emigrants have gone that route this season and got in safely. This route was opened by Jesse Applegate, Scott and others in the year 1846, for the purpose of affording to emigrants a pass into the southern portion of Oregon, but such was the suffering of the first emigrants on this route that it has been but little traveled since, but will, I have no doubt, be much traveled if a garrison should be established in Rogue River valley, as above suggested.
    I have been thus explicit in order that you may understand the condition and wants of the country which I have the honor to represent, with the full belief that you will take such steps as may be necessary to give protection to the citizens there, and emigrants and others traveling to and from Oregon.
    Herewith I enclose two communications from Oregon for your perusal, which you will please return to me. One of the writers I am well acquainted with (Mr. Applegate, one of the early settlers of Oregon). He has done much to bring the country into requisition by exploring, opening roads &c. &c.--a sensible, reliable man. With Mr. Simons I have no acquaintance, but have no doubt of the truth of his narrative.
    With great respect, I am, sir, your obedient servant,
The Daily Union, Washington, D.C., February 6, 1852, page 1

    From Klamath River our route [in 1851] 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. 

George W. Riddle, History of Early Days in Oregon, Riddle Enterprise, 1920, pages 26-28

    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 E. Riddle, was a native of Kentucky, and divided his time between his farm and working at the forge. In 1848 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, Artinecia Chapman, with her baby son John; Isabella, who was 18; 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 Hussy 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 shallow 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 Hussys, 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.

Fred Lockley, "
Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man,"
Oregon Journal, Portland, October 21, 1921, page 10

    "At Soda Springs our wagon train divided, most of the emigrants going to Oregon by the regular Oregon trail. We went with our neighbor, Cornelius Hill, who was making his second trip to Oregon. We took the southern route, following the California trail to the Humboldt River. Then we swung west, crossing from the Klamath Lakes to Ashland by the Green Spring Mountain trail. There were only 12 wagons in our wagon train after we took the southern route. Cornelius Hill was elected captain of the train. John Welch, who, with his brother, had started across the plains with us, was shot through the arm by the Indians near the Humboldt River. His brother had died of mountain fever on the Platte.
    "One of the hardest drives we made on the entire trip was across the desert from the sink of the Humboldt River in Nevada. We had to make a 40-mile drive without water except what we could carry with us in tubs and barrels. We traveled all night, but our trouble commenced the next day. We had to constantly stop and wash the tongues of the cattle, for they were so swollen they couldn't draw them back into their mouths. On both sides of the road we saw scores and hundreds of dead oxen, broken wagons, bedclothes, cookstoves, plows, mahogany sideboards and all sorts of furniture that had been dumped. A hundred families could have been outfitted from the abandoned property on the Black Rock Desert. Ours was the only train that crossed the desert in 1851.
    "In High Rock Canyon, through which we passed several days later, we found more abandoned wagons. Near one of them something had been buried. Through curiosity one of the men of our party dug to see what had been cached. He found a 50-gallon barrel of whiskey and a 50-gallon barrel of brandy. Cornelius Hill, leader of our train, refused to allow any of the liquor to be brought along. However, considerable of it was surreptitiously smuggled along in water casks, churns and other receptacles. We passed through Surprise Valley, crossed the Plum Creek Mountains, and on Fandango Creek found a wagon that had been abandoned, apparently for several years. In the wagon were hundreds of law books. We skirted Goose Lake and started for Tule Lake. Here the Indians tried to stampede our cattle, but did not succeed. In our party were 16 men and four boys. The Indians were armed with bows and arrows. When they tried to stop us every man in the party who had a gun aimed at the Indians and waited for the signal to fire. There were about 100 Modocs. They gave way and let us by, so we passed Bloody Point successfully. The following year a number of emigrant trains were ambushed at Bloody Point and one of the wagon trains was wiped out, the emigrants being killed and the stock run off.
    "After crossing the mountains by the Green Spring Mountain trail we struck the main north-and-south road near Ashland. A few weeks after we had passed gold was discovered at what is now Jacksonville. We followed the Rogue northward, fording near the present site of Grants Pass. At the time we came to the valley there were only three cabins south of Roseburg. Joe Knott lived at Canyonville, William Weaver three miles south of Myrtle Creek and Jesse Roberts on Roberts Creek. On Grave Creek we saw the grave of Miss Leland, who had been buried there in 1846."
G. W. Riddle, quoted by Fred Lockley, "Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, August 13, 1925, page 8


    Sold out and bought three wagons, six yoke oxen, six cows, a horse, saddle and bridle and started for West accompanied by three young men who volunteered to go with me to drive and take care of stock for board. Started April 15, 1852. Family consisted of myself, wife and seven children and men. We numbered twelve. Weather windy and stormy and traveling slow. At Missouri River had to stop a week for chance to ferry over. Bank lined up for great distance with teams and wagons waiting. Where Omaha now stands, then not a house. Road lined with wagons and stock so we slowly moved on long journey. When we reached the Big Platte, cholera broke out. Widespread alarm. As soon as a death took place, hurried burial followed and trains moved on again. Finally reached Salt Lake camped one week visiting old Mormon friends. At Humboldt River about 30 wagons of us took north on Oregon route by way of Goose Lake. Land good and we judged would soon be settled. Proved to be so.
    One rainy night while encamped on southwest side of Lake, Indians stole several head of stock. Early in morning we pursued and overtook portion of them in afternoon. As soon as Indians discovered us they shot several cattle and scattered in all directions. We returned to camp with all stock we were able to trail, losing one yoke of oxen. I left one wagon and we moved on to Tule River. Here again headed off by Indians, but we struck camp, stood guard overnight and early in morning prepared to fight to finish. Soon saw dust rising about mile ahead and coming rapidly. If recruit for enemy our case lost; if friends, victory ours. No tongue could describe horror of my mind while new arrival approached. Indians began to scatter. Capt. Ben Wright and thirty men came towards camp and took in situation at once. Fired upon Indians, killing several, captured three, two squaws and one buck. We were again at liberty. Grazing good so we remained another day. Toward sundown buck was taken out of camp, shot and scalped. Bloody scalp brought back into camp. I thought this uncalled for. This being dangerous point, Capt. Wright sent from Yreka to relieve suffering immigration. Road clear so we journeyed on in safety. Reached Jacksonville on Sept. 17.

Biographical Sketches of the Life of Major Ward Bradford 1893. Typescript at Indiana State Library.

    "My father's name was Benjamin Brown.… We came by the southern route. The Indians killed some of the people in the train just ahead of us, so a military escort was sent out to meet us at Klamath Lake, which accompanied us to Jacksonville. In the fall of 1852 Jacksonville was a city of tents and small log cabins. Mining was carried on right in the streets. I was eight years old. I used to love to go out and watch the miners washing gold out of sluice boxes and rockers. The miners, many of whom had children of their own back East, used to give me nuggets. I remember one day seeing a peculiar framework. I asked one of the miners what it was. He told me it was a gallows, and that they had hanged a man on it just a little while before.
    "My father had mountain fever that winter, so we wintered at Jacksonville. We used to see a good deal of Colonel T'Vault. We came down the Willamette Valley and settled at Milwaukie in the spring of 1853."
Florence C. Brown Harlow, quoted by Fred Lockley, "Observations and Impressions of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, April 27, 1922, page 10

    When I interviewed James C. Bradford of 1801 Northeast Alberta Street recently he told me of the trip made by his father and mother across the plains to Oregon in 1852. They started from the Missouri River on April 15. The family consisted of his father and mother and seven children by a previous marriage of his father's. They crossed the Missouri where Omaha is now located. Their wagon train experienced more than the ordinary hardships, as cholera broke out and many graves were made beside the Old Oregon Trail. At the Humboldt River the train separated, 30 wagons heading, by way of Goose Lake, for Oregon. Here the Indians stole some of their oxen and the emigrants corralled. They were rescued by Captain Ben Wright, with 30 volunteers, who killed some of the Indians and captured several. One of the Indians who had been captured was shot and scalped that night.
    Major Bradford, with his family, arrived at Jacksonville, Or., on September 17, 1852.
Fred Lockley, "Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, December 28, 1934, page 6

    "I was 6 years old when we crossed the plains to Oregon in 1852. My uncle, Mr. Martin, died of cholera on the plains. People then believed that cholera was contagious; they did not know that it came from impure water."
Harriet L. Gilson Caples, quoted by Fred Lockley, "Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man,"
Oregon Journal, Portland, March 16, 1937, page 12.  I don't know if the Gilsons took the Southern Route or not, but I needed a place to preserve this quote.


    On our fourth page [below] may be found a description of the emigrant road, from the Humboldt River to this city.
    The advantages this road has over other routes into California are many; and the inducements presented to the emigrant by this route are obvious, from the fact that it is the nearest and best way into the beautiful valleys of Shasta, Scott and Rogue River; it is the direct road to that new and all-exciting portion of this country lying on the coast immediately adjacent [to] us, Paragon and Trinidad bays, and Crescent City, and all the points in Northern California and Southern Oregon.
    This road is about two hundred miles nearer than the Carson or Sacramento routes; and if you miss the great Desert of St. Mary's River, which has ever been a dread to the weary emigrant on the Plains, who has a worn-out team and a family to protect.
    Why should you wish to go into the southern part of California? Every acre of land is taken up, and should you think of purchasing a farm, you will have to pay exorbitant prices; wages are low, and the prospects for mining are very limited. Why should you wish to go into the northern part of Oregon? That portion of the country is thickly settled and the best of the land claimed; besides you have no gold values there; and after arriving in that part of Oregon, should you wish to come into Rogue River Valley, you then have over four hundred miles to travel, which you can avoid, and have a good road, without any mountains of consequence to cross, by taking the route our guide delineates. We speak from personal knowledge, as we have been in those difficult places, and traveled the different roads.  But before deciding which of these routes to take, the emigrant should think for a moment of his own interest.
    Are you a farmer, and do you wish to establish yourself and family in some beautiful valley, where you can enjoy good health, and get rich in a few years? If so, you can find such a place here, on the banks of some pure mountain stream, flowing from the snowy peaks of Scott, Siskiyou or Mount Shasta. Here you can raise more abundantly every variety of grain and produce that you can in the old states and with less than half the labor; and we may almost say, without any labor at all.
    Are you coming to California to dig for gold? If so, it is well known that this is the newest, and universally acknowledged to be the best, mining district in California; and wages are good. The mechanic can get from six to eight dollars per day, and the common laborer one hundred dollars per month in the mines and boarded.
    In conclusion, we would ask who would live in any other country than California, and in any other part of it than this?
    We omitted in our guide mentioning the forks of the road at Black Rock Springs. Take the right hand, and instead of 28, it is only 20 miles to the next camp.
The Mountain Herald, Yreka, June 18, 1853, page 2

    GUIDE TO ROGUE RIVER, FROM KLAMATH LAKE.--We are indebted to the recollections of a gentleman who came over this road last year for the following guide. We regret that we are unable to procure a copy of the guide of this road made by Mr. Applegate:
    At forks of road on Klamath Lake, take right-hand trail.
    To last water on lake, 10 miles.
    To Klamath River, good water and grass, 20 miles.
    To good springs, road hilly, 15 miles.
    To Siskiyou Mountains, 15 miles.
    To settlements in Rogue River Valley, 10 miles.
    To JACKSONVILLE, 20 miles.
The Mountain Herald, Yreka, June 18, 1853, page 2

    The following guide was handed us by a gentleman who came over this route last year. For the correctness of it we can vouch. We publish it for the benefit of the coming emigration.
    For the advantages of this route in comparison to other roads to California and Oregon, we refer you to another column of this paper [above].
    Before leaving the Humboldt, the emigrant should prepare enough grass to feed his teams at the first two camping places. There is some grass at those points, but not sufficient to supply a large train. You will find good grass for this purpose on the south side of the river, where the road leaves it.
    Start from the Humboldt at 10 or 11 o'clock a.m., and you will reach at camping time.
    ANTELOPE SPRINGS, left of the road, and at the foot of the mountain; good road and fine water, 12 miles.
    RABBIT HOLE SPRINGS; good water right and left of the road, 21 miles.
    BLACK ROCK SPRINGS (hot water); 24 miles. Two miles farther, you will find splendid grass, and the best place to camp; water hot.
    THE MEADOWS; water and grass; 20 miles.
    BY CANYON; no grass or water, 8 miles.
    THROUGH BY CANYON; 12 miles. Good water two miles up the canyon on the right, and good grass and water from thence all the way through the canyon.
    LITTLE CANYON; plenty of water and grass, 4 miles.
    THROUGH LITTLE CANYON; rough, rocky road; good water and grass, 2 miles.
    GRASS AND WATER; left of road, 6 miles. Here, look out for Indians.
    ALKALI LAKE; bad water, 13 miles.
    GOOD GRASS AND WATER, 3 miles.
    Good grass and water all the way, 7 miles.
    HOT SPRINGS, good grass, 10 miles.
    Good grass and water on the left, a small lake, 8 miles.
    Foot of the Nevada Mountain, 5 miles.
    Next good camp, 8 miles.
    A small creek, grass and water, 5 miles.
    GOOSE LAKE, good camp on east side, 8 miles.
    Good camp on west side of Goose Lake road, 6 miles.
    Leave the old Lassen Road, turn to the right, 4 miles.
    Grass and water, 5 miles.
    Grass and water, 13 miles. Rough, rocky road most of way.
    From thence follow down the creek running west, 15 miles. Good camping all the way and good road except the first mile.
    WILLOW SPRINGS, 7 miles.
    RUSHING SPRING (good camp)
    CLEAR LAKE, 13 miles. Every two or three miles good camping on this side of the lake.
    LOST RIVER, good camp, 20 miles.
    NATURAL BRIDGE, 5 miles.
    KLAMATH LAKE, good grass, 10 miles.
    FORKS OF ROAD, 8 miles. Left hand to Yreka; right hand to Rogue River Valley. (A guide to Rogue River will be found in another column.)
    SMALL CREEK, good camp, 1 mile.
    GOOD SPRING, right of road, 4 miles.
    NEXT WATER, good camp, 20 miles.
    GOOD CAMP, 4 miles.
    SHEEP ROCK SPRINGS, 20 miles.
    SHEEP ROCK RANCH, good grass and water, 7 miles. At this ranch the emigrant will find a good supply of all kinds of seasonable vegetables. The proprietor (Doctor Snelling) you will find a gentleman in every respect, and capable of giving any information relative to the farming and mining prospects of this country.
    SHASTA RIVER, 10 miles.
    YREKA CITY, 5 miles.   
The Mountain Herald, Yreka, June 18, 1853, page 4

    About two hundred wagons entered Rogue River Valley over this route last autumn.
Shasta Courier, Shasta, California, February 11, 1854, page 2

    After marching east for six or eight days we arrived at the point intended for our permanent camp. The place chosen was in the vicinity of a large lake with plenty of very cold delicious springs around, and grass sufficient to graze our horses all summer. Here we pitched our tents and prepared to make ourselves as comfortable as possible whilst spending a dull monotonous summer.
    The reason of our being sent here was that the year previous several emigrant trains had been attacked by the Indians in this region and several persons killed. A volunteer force had spent the summer here and by their atrocities towards the Indians did not assist much in fostering a good feeling between the Indians and whites. . . .
    Quite a number of emigrants passed our camp during the summer, to all of whom we furnished escorts through the dangerous places. The emigrants were from all parts of the western and northwestern states, a very great majority from Iowa. They were not in a destitute condition as they have been in some years, although they would beg for flour, coffee, &c. from us. A great portion of those which came in on our trail were farmers with their families, cattle, &c., intending to settle in Rogue River Valley, Oregon. We remained at our camp until Sept. 23, when we received orders to repair to Jacksonville, in Rogue River Valley, where an Indian war had been raging all summer.

"Letter from California," Burlington Weekly Telegraph, Burlington, Iowa, June 2, 1854, page 1  
The author is likely Lt. Thomas F. Castor, Company A, 1st Dragoons.


For the Union.
The Stock Mortality on the Plains.

    MESSRS. EDITORS:--A correspondent of the Sacramento Union, writing from Placerville, under date of August 23rd, 1855, says:
    "The quantity of stock that dies immediately on its arrival in Carson Valley from the Desert is truly alarming. Some men have lost as high as twenty percent of their entire herds; some less and some even more."
    He says that "stock raised in Carson Valley, or that has been acclimated, do not die there more than in other countries." He concludes by stating that--
    "The object of this communication is to call forth from men experienced on the other routes not passing through Carson Valley, but entering the state north, if a similar mortality occurs with stock on that route as takes place on this route. Will not some person experienced, and who is interested in the subject, speak and inform the public in relation to the matter," &c, &c.
    Having very recently passed over a northern route, and being somewhat familiar with the interior of the country, I will briefly offer some hints--the results of my experience and observations.
    I left Salt Lake City near the 1st of May, with the command of Col. Steptoe. We had some 350 mules, 200 horses, and 60 beef cattle. The command was to have taken the proposed route by the south end of Great Salt Lake, thence southerly along the foot of some detached ranges of mountains to New River, and thence by Walker's Lake, through Carson Valley, but upon exploration that route was found impracticable in the spring for wagons. I may here remark that it is the general impression among men who are most familiar with that region, that a good and much shorter road can be laid out by exploring some thirty or forty miles further south than Porter Rockwell did last spring, the only difficulty being to find a practicable way of crossing the Great Mud Flat lying southwest of the Great Salt Lake. The command came by Bear River, Goose Creek Mountains and the Humboldt River. It was divided on the 13th of June, at Lassen's Meadows, up to which point not a single animal had been lost. Col. Steptoe followed down by the Sink of the Humboldt, and on through Carson Valley. He lost some ten or twelve horses and mules, that had contracted their diseases at or near the Sink. He does not think that any one of them died from the effects of either alkali water or poisonous grasses or weeds found in Carson Valley. They died of diseases peculiar to alkali regions--corroded intestines, swelled throats, &c., &c.
    I am told that drovers both in front and rear of Steptoe's command suffered a heavy loss, probably because cattle cannot be kept from poisonous waters with that facility that horses and mules can. These diseases seemed quite incurable when the attacks were violent.
    I left the Colonel at Lassen's Meadows, with souie 50 men, 100 horses, 112 mules, 17 wagons and some cattle; and pursued a northwesterly course by Black Rock, Goose, Clear, Rhett's and Lower Klamath lakes, through Applegate's Pass, direct into Rogue River Valley, in Southern Oregon.
    The distance was, by the windings of the road, 350 miles. The road was generally quite good. I found no serious obstacles, but moved along quite rapidly, and lost not a particle of property on the whole route. The mules were turned over at Fort Lane in good condition. After leaving the Meadows, water and grass are found at fourteen and eighteen miles distant on the left, and off the road at Rabbit Hole Springs. From this place to Black Rock is a desert of thirty-six miles, on which water of good quality cannot be found nor any grass. But if drovers leave the springs in good condition, the Desert can be crossed without the slightest risk. From Black Rock on to the Sacramento Valley by several routes, there is a great abundance of water and grass, and after the middle of June this road will be found practicable.
    The springs at Black Rock are very hot. The water must be conducted off and cooled, but travelers must be careful not to let stock drink it after it has been standing in pools a long time, for the earth here is strongly impregnated with alkali. It is probable that in early spring the ground in the vicinity of the numerous mud lakes would be too soft and miry for wagons.
    Messrs. McKee, Kirby, Middleton, Mac, and others followed my route to near the base of Shasta Butte, when they took a southern fork of the trail, and crossed the mountains near Yreka, and then came down to the Sacramento by Pit River.
    I am told they suffered very small loss, in no instance exceeding four or five percent. Most of these gentlemen are now in this country. Many of them are experienced drovers, and prairie and mountain men. I hope they will give the public the benefit of their observation and experience.
    They are able, no doubt, to suggest a route differing, probably, from any one now traveled, that will be a great improvement on those now in use. Nothing is more needed. The road can be shortened and otherwise improved. I am of opinion that a good road can be found from Lassen's Meadows to the Sacramento Valley, passing over a country generally abounding in fine grass and water, the distance not exceeding two hundred and twenty-five miles. For immigrants wishing to enter Southern Oregon no road can be better than the one I traveled.
    Lieut. R. S. Williamson, of the Topographical Engineer Corps, is now exploring the country north, and will examine the Cascade Range for a pass into the Willamette Valley. Should he succeed the immigrant route can be greatly shortened, and its resources much multiplied.
    For persons desirous to enter California near Shasta City, I would recommend that they leave the Humboldt at or near the Meadows, pass quite near Black Rock, and then follow the Noble or Beckwith route through the Madeline Pass; but those wishing to enter the Sacramento Valley lower down should go by Black Rock, then turn southerly and pass by the Mud and Pyramid lakes and cross the Sierra Nevada over the old Nevada, Downieville, or some other of the known crossings. The country lying west of the Desert, after leaving the Humboldt, is of a similar character to that passed over by me. There are numerous basins, each having its own isolated mud lake, surrounded by ridges covered with luxuriant grasses. There are many small streams of pure water running into these lakes.
    I am about to leave for Washington, where I shall remain during the winter; but should anyone desire more detailed information, I will cheerfully give all in my power on a timely implication. I would remark, however, that I have handed Maj. Gen. Wool maps and descriptive lists of the country, and various routes across the continent, and, no doubt, a person could obtain any information desired by proper application at Headquarters.
Sacramento Daily Union, September 6, 1855, page 1


    We mentioned, not long since, that Captain Felix Scott, late of this county, had in all probability been murdered by the Indians [in the fall of 1858], when on his way from the States to Oregon, by way of the Southern Oregon, or Applegate, route.
    His son, who has lately returned from a tour of inquiry, gives us the following information. Rumor had reached Yreka, based upon Indian assertion, that a party consisting of three men had been murdered by the Indians in the vicinity of Goose Lake, and their stock, comprising six horses and six head of neat cattle, with a considerable amount of money, was taken by the murderers.
    Upon the reception of this report at Yreka, the son of Captain Scott immediately set out for the scene of the reported disaster, and progressed as far as Honey Lake, but found it impossible to proceed farther in consequence of the severity of the weather, and the accumulation of snow on the mountains. He has learned, however, from Mr. Crawford, an old settler on French Prairie, that on his way to Oregon, when he left Humboldt River, Capt. Scott (whom he had frequently seen on the plains) was but three days' travel in the rear, and that they had intended traveling together through the remainder of the journey. But Mr. Crawford, having gone some distance on the Applegate route, found it so little used as to have become difficult to follow, and returned and took the road by Noble's Pass. The presumption is that Capt. Scott, seeing the appearance of late travel on the road proposed to be taken, pursued it, and from his previous knowledge of the country, was enabled to find the pass in the mountains and finally reached Goose Lake, where the tragedy occurred.
    Captain Scott was a native of Monongahela County, Va. He resided some years in Missouri, and was Lieutenant Governor of that state. He afterwards came to California and resided some time with Capt. Sutter at the old fort. His age at the time of his death was about seventy.--Eugene Press.
Oregon Statesman,
Salem, January 25, 1859, page 1

Don't miss M. G. Pohl's circa 1868 Southern Route horror story.

Last revised December 8, 2023