Biography of Green Arnold

GREEN ARNOLD. – One of the earliest pioneers of the country lying east of the Cascade Mountains is the gentleman whose name heads this sketch. He was born in Niagara county, New York, in 1919, and received his education at his native place. In 1833, he moved to Michigan with his parents, where he remained until 1850, when hearing of the wonderful stories of the rich discoveries of gold in California, he buckled on his armor of faith and started across the plains, landing in Hangtown (now Placerville) on the 6th day of August of the same year. He remained in California till June 1, 1851, and then returned to Michigan, where he remained till 1852. He then recrossed the plains, landing in Milwaukee, Oregon, in October of the same year, where he went into the hotel business, and remained there until May, 1853, when he went to Champoeg. Here he again went into the hotel business, remaining until July, when he went to The Dalles, and from thence to Butter Creek, on the old emigrant trail in Umatilla county, with a pack train of goods, for the purpose of trading with the Indians and the emigrants then en route to the Willamette valley from across the plains. He remained at Butter Creek until October, when he returned to Champoeg, and in the spring of 1854, returned to Eastern Oregon and established a trading post in Grande Ronde valley, at the foot of what is now known as the Ladd hill, for the purpose of supplying the incoming emigrants with provisions.

In October, 1853, he returned to the Umatilla agency, where Echo now stands, leaving his cattle and horses in charge of Irk Davidson and the late Henry M. Ellsworth. He made a trip to Portland for the purpose of purchasing more goods to trade with the Indians, as they had expressed a desire for him to do so. He returned in November with a fresh supply of goods, and with the permission of General Joel Palmer, then superintendent of Indian affairs for Oregon and Washington Territories, and also from R.R. Thompson, then Indian agent for the Indians east of the Cascade Mountains. Upon the second day after Mr. Arnold’s return to the agency, a man by the name of Throstle, a resident of The Dalles, who had come to the agency to find a horse that had been stolen from him, had a dispute with one of the Indians, when Throstle shot him, wounding him seriously, and then mounting his horse fled. The shooting of the Indian caused great excitement; and Mr. Arnold had great difficulty in restraining the Indians from massacring all the Whites in that vicinity; but upon a promise that Throstle should be arrested and punished for his crime, and by dispatching to men to The Dalles with letters to Agent Thompson informing him of the affair, the Indians became pacified for a time. The third day after he had dispatched the messengers to Thompson, a half-breed Indian brought a letter to him from Captain Nathan Olney at The Dalles, stating that Agent Thompson was at Portland, and advising him to abandon everything, and with whatever Whites there might be at the agency to make their escape, as the Indians would surely kill them all.

Upon the reception of Olney’s letter, he invited Winapsnoot, the head chief of the Umatilla and Columbia river Indians, who was rich in horses, to take supper with him, and, placing the white men and all his goods in his charge, informed him he was going to The Dalles to consult with Thompson, and that he should hold him responsible for the lives of the white men then at the agency, as well as for his goods. Upon arriving at The Dalles, he found Agent Thompson there, to whom he stated the particulars of the shooting, and informed him of the excitement and dissatisfaction among the Indians in regard to the affair. Agent Thompson said he could not leave The Dalles for several days on account of business of importance, and advised him to start for the agency, and that he would overtake him. Arnold’s party started to return to the agency, proceeding quite leisurely, expecting Thompson to overtake them, well knowing there would be serious trouble without the agent. Eight days were consumed in making the return trip. Upon their arrival at the agency without Agent Thompson and the culprit Throstle, the Indians became very much excited, and threatened to exterminate all the Whites in their midst, except Doctor McKay, to whom they gave notice that if he would leave the premises they would not harm him, but if he remained they would kill him.

Arnold advised the Doctor to leave at once, and instructed him to tell the Indians that he would “hold the fort,” as he had arms and ammunition with which to protect himself, and that if they came within a certain distance of the house they would surely be killed. McKay took his advice and started for his house, some twenty-five miles distant from the trading post, first giving the Indians the message. Arnold had informed Winapsnoot that he or any of the chiefs of the various tribes could come and talk with the party, but that he would not allow any of the tribe to visit them without being escorted or accompanied by some of the chiefs. after waiting five days for Agent Thompson, he told his Indian herder to bring five of the best horses and tie them near the house. The Indians, seeing the horses, asked Winapsnoot what those horses were there for, as they feared the Whites would escape without the offender Throstle being punished, and sent him to inquire concerning them. Arnold told Winapsnoot that he was going to send the boys to McKay’s for potatoes for the New Year’s celebration. This explanation satisfied them, as he had asked Winapsnoot to take supper with the party. The Indians then retired to their camps; and, when Winapsnoot and Arnold were eating supper, Davidson and Ellsworth, in accordance with previous arrangements, had prepared the horses to leave for The Dalles. After supper Arnold informed Weimam that we were going to The Dalles on important business, and should leave all goods, horses and cattle in his charge and hold him responsible for their safe-keeping, and that the great Father at Washington would uphold him in protecting what was left in his care. As soon as the party had left for The Dalles, Weimam went to the Indians and told them that the white men had left. The Indians started to intercept them; but the horses of the former being the fleetest, they avoided the redskins, arriving at The Dalles the next morning making the distance (110 miles) in fourteen hours. Upon arriving at The Dalles they found Agent Thompson, who returned to the agency with some seventy-five soldiers and settled matters satisfactorily in regard to the shooting of the Indian, who in the meantime had recovered.

Upon arriving at the agency, Arnold found all his property safe, it having been carefully guarded by Winapsnoot. Upon request of the Indians made to Agent Thompson and himself that he should remain and trade with them, he did so, staying until April, 1855, when he returned to The Dalles and located a farm on Three-mile creek, leaving his cattle and horses near the agency, expecting to return and drive them to his ranch. In the meantime the Indians had become very much dissatisfied on account of the Palmer-Stevens treaty; and, knowing that trouble would ensue, Arnold returned to the agency for the purpose of removing his stock. Reaching the place, he proceeded to gather his horses and cattle to drive them to The Dalles; but the younger portion of the Indians placed every impediment in the way to prevent his doing so, while the older ones assisted him in every possible way. The younger spirits prevailed; and he lost 120 head of cattle and horses, besides all the goods he had at the agency. Arnold then returned to his farm on Three-mile creek, and raised one of the first crops of grain in that section, and planted the first trees. In the fall of 1858, he moved to Birch creek, Umatilla county, and opened up the first farm, and raised the first grain crop ever raised there. In 1862, Mr. Arnold moved to where La Grande now stands, laid out the first lots and gave the town its name on account of its beautiful location and scenery. He brought the first grain, cattle and hogs ever brought there, sowed and raised the first grain ever raised in Grande Ronde valley, and built the first steam sawmill and hotel in the valley. He washed out the first gold ever washed out from Grande river, Granite creek, Burnt and Powder rivers. This was in 1861, in company with Captain Pierce, John Rogers of Oregon City, Geo. Fellows, John Stevens and a few others. When the immigration commenced to flow into Grande Ronde valley, he went into farming and stockraising, and is to-day a hale and hearty man and unmarried.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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