While Kearney and Lane were busy with the foregoing, other Indian troubles were in progress. In May 1851, Captain William Tichenor, who was operating the steamer Seagull between Portland and San Francisco, announced that he intended to found a town on the Southern Oregon coast and build a road into the Southern Oregon gold district. He expected to set up a store for miners’ supplies and said that he had chosen a site. It turned out to be the place where present day Port Orford stands. He gathered a group of nine men led by J. M. Kirkpatrick to initiate the undertaking. Tichenor insisted that the local Indians were friendly but the men refused to go unless supplied with firearms. The Captain provided them with a nondescript assortment of weapons among which was a little old cannon with three or four shells, each holding two pounds of powder. Tichenor told the two men that he would reinforce them on his return trip in about two weeks, when he would also bring supplies.
As soon as the ship had sailed from the townsite the Indians started to menace the small colony, which promptly set up log defenses on a prominent rock, since known as Battle Rock and now preserved as a state park. The colonists loaded their cannon and awaited developments. On the morning of June 10 the Indians gathered in large numbers, held a war dance and were harangued by a tall fellow wearing a red shirt. Then the Indians advanced to storm the barricade. They had no knowledge of cannon and crowded together. The first shot from the cannon killed seventeen of them, one being the red-shirted orator. He proved to be a white man, a Russian, and had probably been a deserter from some Russian ship or may have been marooned by his captain. Thus it seems that we had a Russian agent provocateur even in that early day. Then another leader exhorted the natives and again they attacked. That leader also was killed. The type of energetic reception accorded them caused the Indians to pause. A long-range conversation ensued in which the white men told the Indians that the ship would return in 14 days when they would leave on it. The natives decided to wait. On the 15th day, the ship having failed to appear, about 400 Indians congregated on the beach. The white men decided that their only chance for survival lay in escape. They had a limited supply of ammunition and knew that it would be only a question of time until the natives, through overwhelming numbers, would be victorious. The white men slipped away. Traveling by night and hiding by day, staying near the coast, finally, hungry and exhausted, they reached the settlements near the mouth of the Umpqua River. Meanwhile Captain Tichenor had returned, found the site abandoned and evidence of the battle. Among other things he found a diary containing an incomplete account of the battle. He concluded that all the white men had been killed and thus reported his conclusion. The newspapers on the coast published accounts of the supposed massacre.
But the effort to colonize Port Orford continued. In August 1851, the settlers there numbered about 70 and felt sufficiently powerful to hold their own against the Indians and to explore a right-of-way for a road to the gold diggings. Twenty-three men under the leadership of W. G. T’Vault set out on the exploring trip. By August 22nd most of the group were ready to give up the enterprise as a bad job and 13 of them returned. T’Vault and nine others plodded on. September 1st they, too, decided to abandon their trip. The horses couldn’t negotiate the tangle of underbrush and they decided to employ local Indians to take them down stream in canoes. The river was the Coquille and the Indians were of the tribe of the same name. On the 14th the Indians suddenly beached their canoes at their village where word of the expedition had evidently preceded them. The Indians immediately surrounded the whites and attempted to gain possession of their firearms. The fighting was terrific. The Indians were armed with bows and arrows, war clubs and knives. Their knives had been fashioned from iron salvaged from the wreck of the pilot boat Hagstaff which had been lost at the mouth of the Rogue River. Patrick Murphy, A. S. Dougherty, John P. Holland, Jeremiah Dyland, and J. P. Pepper were massacred. T’Vault, Gilbert Bush, L. L. Williams, T. J. Davenport, and Cyrus Hedden escaped, though Bush was severely injured, in addition to his other injuries being partly scalped.
Appeal for a garrison was made to the army at Astoria. The post commander had received a report from Kearney telling of the battles with the Rogue River Indians, which with the added intelligence about the Coquille massacre caused Lieutenant A. V. Kautz and 20 soldiers to be sent to Port Orford, supposedly the best station from which to hold the Indians in check. The post commander had been told that Port Orford was only 35 miles from Camp Stuart on Stuart’s Creek whereas it was three times that distance, all of it through very rugged country. So the stationing of Lieutenant Kautz’ small group was of no value as an aid to the miners and the force was too small to go into the mountains to fight Indians.
On September 12th, 1851, Anson Dart, Superintendent of Indian Affairs with two agents, J. L. Parrish and H. H. Spalding, sailed from Portland on the steamer Seagull for Port Orford. The purpose of their trip was to make treaties with the Coast tribes. They arrived on the 14th; the very day of the massacre on the Coquille and two days later heard that news from T’Vault and Bush, who credited the care given them by the Cape Blanco Indians with their survival. Dart was on a spot. He had come to conclude treaties. To do so now would make it appear to the Indians that the whites were backing down. He had Lieutenant Kautz and only 20 soldiers so he couldn’t lead a punitive expedition. However Dart had Parrish who knew Indians. Parrish persuaded the Cape Blanco natives to find out who had survived at the Coquille River besides T’Vault and Bush. So two Cape Blanco women went to the Coquille village and while there buried the five victims, but did not know how to identify them. The Indian women returned reporting that some had escaped but just who they didn’t know. After several days of discussion Parrish decided to go to the Coquilles for a talk and took no escort. Instead he had with him one Indian from a Columbia River tribe who had stolen from the Coquilles as a boy. Parrish took presents by means of which three principal chiefs were induced to come to his camp but the council came to nothing as the Coquilles refused to place themselves under the supervision of the white people.
Dart knew that the Rogues had not kept the treaty made with Governor Gaines and that numerous robberies and murders had occurred, so he sent word to the Rogues to meet him at Port Orford. That was an error because it was customary that one tribe would not cross the territory of an unallied tribe unless to fight them and Dart should have had knowledge of that fundamental. Hence his order was rebuffed and the Rogues got tougher. In fact that summer (1851) the Rogues committed 38 known murders and many thefts and robberies.
Upon hearing of the Coquille River massacre, General E. A. Hitchcock ordered Companies A, C, and E of the First Dragoons to Port Orford. Company C was mounted, the other two dismounted. Lieutenant-Colonel Silas Casey of the Second Infantry was assigned to command. Companies A and E arrived at Port Orford on October 22, 1851, and Company C on October 27th. On October 31st they started out to punish the Coquilles. It took them until November 3rd to reach the mouth of the Coquille River because of the difficulties of the trail. Their guide was Gilbert Bush, one of the survivors. On November 5th the Indians assembled on the north side of the river and challenged the troops. The Indians felt their oats because they had supplemented their bows and arrows with the firearms and ammunition captured at the time of the massacre. The Indians and the troops fired at each other across the river without damage to either side.
The soldiers built a raft and on November 7th the dismounted men crossed, the mounted men with Lieutenant-Colonel Casey remaining on the south side. Then both detachments started upstream. That march continued for several days – struggling through underbrush and swamps, up, down and across canyons. It was raining and the men slept in wet clothes and wet blankets and didn’t see an Indian. They did run across several abandoned villages which they burned. Casey changed his plan and ordered a return to the mouth of the river. There he acquired three small boats, packed 60 men into them, and rowed up stream for four days to the junction of the North and South Forks. The weather continued bad and the stream was swifter by reason of continued rainfall.
On November 21st Lieutenant Thomas Wright with 14 men in one boat went up the South Fork while Lieutenant George Stoneman with 14 men in another boat went up the North Fork. After proceeding seven miles Stoneman saw the Indians in force on both sides of the stream; he fired a few shots and then returned to the junction. Wright also returned, having gone farther but having seen no Indians. Next day all started up the north branch. Fifty of the men were on the south bank, while the other ten men in two boats went ahead. When within a half mile of the camp one company crossed to the north side, all advancing silently. Of course the Indians saw the boats and-assembled to prevent their landing. Casey had hoped for that very thing because it gave the troops on one shore a chance to rush in from two sides of the Indian camp, while those on the opposite bank picked off any Indians who straggled close enough. In a few minutes 15 Indians were killed and many wounded. The surviving hostiles fled to the forest. Casey figured they had had their lesson and returned to the mouth of the river where they erected a log barracks. In December the three companies were sent to San Francisco and thus ended another Rogue River campaign.
In January 1852, the schooner Captain Lincoln was chartered to carry a garrison to Port Orford, which was ordered to be designated thereafter as Fort Orford. Lieutenant Stanton, who had been with Lieutenant-Colonel Casey in the Coquille River campaign, was in command. The vessel went aground on a sand spit two miles north of Coos Bay. All personnel, together with the stores were safely landed and habitations were devised from the ship’s sails and spars. They were there four months with nothing to do except to keep thieving Indians from stealing the stores. The men named the place Camp Castaway; Twelve dragoons were detailed to mark a trail to Fort Orford so that a relief train could get through. The dragoons also carried messages for forwarding to the military authorities in San Francisco and were ordered to stay at Fort Orford until replies came from San Francisco. However, the mail steamer with the answers, and with a Quartermaster named Miller aboard, scheduled to stop at Fort Orford, made a mistake by concluding that the entrance to the Rogue River was Port Orford, and when the error was discovered became panicky and hit out for the Columbia River so that the quartermaster did not get to Fort Orford until April 12th. From there he headed a pack train for Camp Castaway. It took four days to go 50 miles so Miller went up to the mouth of the Umpqua where he found the schooner Nassau, which he chartered and brought to Coos Bay, the first vessel to enter there. The brig Fawn soon arrived at the mouth of the Umpqua, loaded with quartermaster’s wagons. Mules were sent there to haul the wagons to Camp Castaway. There was no road but the job was done. They hauled the supplies from the wreck across sand dunes to Coos Bay where they were loaded on the Nassau, for Fort Orford, arriving there May 20th. This merely indicated some of the difficulties attendant upon fighting Indians.
Fort Orford was by that time garrisoned by twelve dragoons under Lieutenant Stanton and 20 artillerymen under Lieutenant Wyman. At that time no road had been opened into the interior, in fact it was not until that year that the first road was made available. Since horses could not get through the underbrush and the canyons the garrison wasn’t of much use for trailing Indians, nor could they hurry here and there through the interior as emergency calls came, so they remained at Fort Orford as an evidence of moral suasion. After all, there were 32 of them, well armed so they could shoot, which demanded some respect from the natives.
As pointed out elsewhere in this book, there was a wide variation in the intelligence quotient of the many different tribesmen. The Rogues and Shasta, who were of the same nation, were far down the scale from the Cayuses, who, in turn, were surpassed by o the Nez Perces. The Rogues and Shasta were most primitive in their habits, passions, and morals. With them it was survival of the fittest by whatever means necessary. They had no property except the barest necessities, but were always willing and anxious to acquire that of others. The Rogues were never quiet for long.
In the spring of 1852 a series of outrages occurred in Southwestern Oregon, which was to eventuate another Rogue River war. A settler who lived on Grave Creek, which empties into Wolf Creek, a tributary of the Rogue River, was robbed. Then in April five prospectors were attacked in their camp on Josephine Creek in the Illinois River country. One of them slipped out and made his way to Jacksonville for aid. The other four built a barricade and held off the Rogues for two days when relief came in the form of 35 miners.
The prospectors had found the remains of men recently murdered. Calvin Woodman was murdered by the Shasta under Chief Scarface, on April 8th at a creek running into the Klamath River. Scarface was chief of the tribe in Shasta Valley; John was chief of those in Scott Valley. The miners and settlers of both valleys combined and arrested Chief John, who was considered by some to be the Head Chief, but only because his father had been the principal chief. Demand was made of Chief John to surrender Chief Scarface as the murderer and also Chief Bill, as an accessory. Chief John refused the surrender and somehow escaped. So the miners set out to punish the Indians. In the fight, which followed, the sheriff was wounded and several horses belonging to the posse were killed. The Indians began moving their families out of the neighborhood in preparation for hostilities.
Another phase of the attempt to arrest Chief Scarface came in an incident sparked by Elisha Steele. He was a man who always held the confidence of Indians.
While traveling north from Yreka and arriving at Johnson’s ranch in Scott Valley, he met a company of the miners who had been vainly trying to apprehend the murderers of Calvin Woodman. Fearing for the safety of the Johnson family in case of war, Steele decided to hold a council and succeeded in persuading several important Indian leaders to meet with him. These Indians were Chief Tolo, head of the tribe in the country around Yreka; Philip, who was Tolo’s son; Chief John of the Scott Valley tribe with his brother Jim and two less important brothers. All these Indians assured Steele that they wanted only peace and offered to go on a search for the murderers with Steele. So Steele organized a group which went to Yreka and secured the necessary warrants for the arrest of Chief Scarface and Chief Bill.
Setting out they found that the two criminals had gone to the district which was under the rule of Chief Sam of the Rogue River Indians. Chief Sam had already declared war on the whites, his alleged reason being that he accused Dr. G. H. Ambrose, a settler, of appropriating land which traditionally had been used as winter quarters by the tribe and, further, that the doctor had refused to betroth his infant daughter to the Chief’s infant son. Which of these excuses was most impelling we do not know but when Chief Tolo, his son Philip, and Jim, who was Chief John’s brother, learned of them, they declined to accompany Steele any further but did assign two young braves as their substitutes and pledged that the braves would find the criminals or stand trial before the law in their stead.
We must now consider another of those trying sets of circumstances, which caused people to wonder how affirmative results were ever accomplished. It will be remembered that Alonzo A. Skinner was Indian agent in the Rogue country. As such it was his prime duty to avoid war and to conclude peace treaties and, also, to see that the rights of the Indians were protected, and that the natives were compensated for lands occupied by settlers. After the withdrawal of Chief Tolo and the others from Steele’s party, part of Steele’s group with himself at its head, went to the Rogue River. The other detachment under Benjamin Wright went to the gold mines on the Klamath River. While these two parties were traveling, news of Chief Sam’s war declaration reached the mining community at Jacksonville. There a company of almost a hundred men under John K. Lamerick, as captain, was organized. When agent Skinner heard about it he obtained a promise from the volunteers that he would be given time to council with the Indians before the volunteers attacked.
Skinner and a committee of four found Chief Sam who agreed to talk. He said that he was in favor of peace but that he preferred to wait until the next day in order to give time for Chief Jo to join the council. Skinner agreed to wait. While these events were transpiring, Steele had arrived at Jacksonville to demand the surrender of Scarface and Bill. Skinner agreed that their surrender be made a condition of the council’s results. So all of them went to the council Skinner, Steele, Lamerick and his company. The Indians were waiting on the far side of the river. A messenger was sent across to ask Chief Sam to come over with Chief Jo and a small bodyguard. Sam agreed but seeing the volunteers armed and in formation thought it was a trap and hesitated, whereupon Skinner ordered the volunteers to stack their arms, which was done.
Steele was there to arrest two Indians and Skinner was present to negotiate a peace. The messenger reported that the murderers were in Chief Sam’s camp. Sam refused to council until Steele freed two Rogues whom he had captured enroute. Skinner spoke to the prisoners saying that he, as their white chief, freed them. Steele, in turn, told them that if they tried to leave they would be shot and stationed men for that purpose. Under these poor circumstances the council got under way and while in progress about 100 Indians crossed the river from Sam’s camp and mingled with the crowd. This made the volunteers nervous so they took up their stacked arms. This council occurred July 19, 1852, and under the circumstances was a failure. Even under the best conditions it would have failed because Sam never intended to enter into a binding treaty. Finally Sam said that he would not surrender the criminals, at least until he had gone back across the river to discuss the matter with some of his people. So he went across and yelled back that he was not returning and defied the volunteers to come over, promising them a hot reception.
Of course the challenge could not go unanswered. After all the volunteers had come for the purpose of fighting Indians but Skinner and Steele, with a considerable number of Indians, were still on the council ground. So half of the volunteers went to a ford above Sam’s camp and the others down stream below a sandbar beyond Sam’s camp prepared to cross and attack if Skinner and Steele were threatened. Skinner, ever an individualist as far as his own decisions went, and anxious to avoid hostilities but judging that a battle was likely to occur, crossed the river. About half of the Indians did likewise. Steele was alarmed at Skinner’s action and placed a guard to prevent the rest of the Indians from crossing. Steele also sent a Shasta Indian over to warn Skinner of his peril. That Indian knew the murderers and Skinner could have asked him to point them out but did not, fearing bloodshed.
Just then it was reported that Scarface and two others were seen sneaking off in the direction of the Klamath River. This news caused a commotion among the volunteers, which alarmed the Indians, who hastened into a nearby grove. The volunteers thought that the Indians had gone there to prepare for an attack. Steele’s party then got into position to intercept them. It surely looked as if a fight was only a matter of minutes. At that moment Martin Angell, a settler who had formerly lived in the Willamette Valley where he had the respect of the Indians, came up and suggested to the Indians in the grove that they lay down their arms and agree to remain as hostages until the murderers were surrendered. The Indians agreed and were told to occupy a log building in the vicinity. As they walked past Steele’s party, ostensibly to go to their assigned quarters they suddenly made a run for the woods. From the woods the Indians would have had the advantage in firing, so Steele ordered his men to attack. Both sides were well armed and both ready to fight. Recall that part of Captain Lamerick’s volunteers were at the ford above camp. Hearing the firing Lamerick left some men to guard the place and then set off up the valley to warn the settlers, the first of whom was Dr. Ambrose, previously mentioned.
The battle didn’t last long. Sam’s warriors made a noisy charge for the purpose of liberating the two prisoners held by Steele. The prisoners started to run towards the river. One was shot before he got that far; the other after he reached the opposite shore. Sam then sent some braves to cut off Steele but they were observed by one of the volunteers and several of them killed. The only white casualty was one man wounded. Skinner, who had taken no part in the fighting, went to his home, which he started putting into a state of defense.
That evening news was received that some of Sam’s warriors had, during the council, gone down stream to a bar where a small company of miners were washing gold and killed the miners. Lamerick at once crossed the river and placed his force in the pass between Table Rock and the river. Steele and his party went farther up stream so he could intercept the Indians and turn them back towards Lamerick’s position the following morning. The Indians were out-generalled. Finding themselves trapped they asked for peace and agreed to settle on the terms offered the previous day, which terms included the surrender of the killers. Word was sent to Skinner who called a council for the next day, July 21, 1852, which was duly held. There it was learned that Scarface had not been with Sam. Instead it was one from Chief Tipso’s band from north of the Siskiyous. The Indian’s name was Sullix; a man who resembled Scarface and who also had his face scarred, to which more scars were added by wounds received in the fight. Scarface was said to be hiding in the Salmon River Mountains.
Scarface had probably been on the Salmon, for, after Steele’s failure to arrest the Woodman killers an expedition under Ben Wright set out to find them. With Wright were several Indians including Scarface in spite of the fact that he was very much suspected by the whites. Proceeding towards the Klamath River the party divided. Scarface, alone, ventured too near Yreka and was seen by several white men who decided to add him to their long list of Indians whom they had killed for the Woodman murder and who had probably never heard of Woodman. Afoot, Scarface led his mounted pursuers a race for 18 miles before he was caught. They hanged him to a tree in what is still known as Scarface Gulch. Wright returned with two Indians suspected of killing Woodman. A trial, witnessed by immense crowds, was held at Lone Star Ranch. One of the Indians was convicted and hanged, the other released.
In the treaty, which Skinner made with Chief Sam, the latter was required to hold no communication with the Shasta. Since the Rogues and the Shasta belonged to the same family such a requirement would seem to have been futile. But as bad as things were in the Rogue River country, they were better than they had been in 1851 when measured by the number of murders since only 18 killings were perpetrated by the Rogue River Indians in 1852 as compared with 36 proved the previous year.
In the treaty councils Indians were told that the Federal Government would pay them for lands in money or in other things of value. Shortly after the treaty with Chief Sam the Superintendent of Indian Affairs was notified that all treaties which had been made in Oregon Territory had been ordered laid on the table in the United States Senate and Dart was instructed to make no more except where absolutely necessary to maintain peace. The reason given was that the Federal Government wanted time in which to define its Indian policy. Dart thereupon, in December 1852, tendered his resignation to become effective in June 1853.
It must be recalled that Joseph Lane was Territorial Delegate in Congress in 1852. There he was trying to obtain military protection for the northern immigrant route. He was reminded that his predecessor Samuel R. Thurston had said that the mounted rifle regiment was unnecessary and in fact Kearney was withdrawing the last remnants of it when he intervened in the Rogue River War of 1852. Lane stressed his point, indicating the large number of murders and robberies in 1851.
However, the 1852 immigration, which was the largest of all, was so well equipped as well as so numerous that the Indians were not very bold although some stealing occurred. The southern route had another story to tell and a sad one. That route roughly paralleled the southern boundary of present day Oregon with slight serrations due to the topography of the country. Their Fremont had been attacked in 1843. There Captain W. H. Warner was murdered in 1849 while surveying for a railroad. The route had always been subjected to attacks. Tule Lake, now mostly farm land but then a large body of water, was a favorite spot for the Modoc Indians to waylay immigrant trains. There was a particular spot, which was worse, that being on the north side of the lake at what was named Bloody Point, a place where the wagon trail ran between the lake and an overhanging cliff. Many immigrants were attacked there in 1851 but 1852 had to roll around to mark the high spot in troubles at that location. That year almost a hundred men, women and children were murdered, wagons burned, and large quantities of goods stolen.
We have previously stated that Benjamin Wright had left Steele near Jacksonville to go to the mines on the Klamath River. Near Yreka he met a party of 60 male immigrants, the advance group of a larger number coming by the southern route, who said they had come through without Indian molestation, but they also reported that there were many parties on the road, some with their families, and that Indian signal fires were burning in the mountains. Upon learning of the signal fires it was decided to raise a company of volunteers in Yreka to escort immigrants through Modoc land. A company of about 40 men under Captain Charles McDermit was organized and set out for Tule Lake. Arriving there they met another group of men bound for Yreka. McDermit assigned two of his men to act as guides and the rest of his company remained in the lake country. As it turned out the two guides were wounded in an Indian attack but they and the party they were escorting escaped when a lucky shot removed the top of an Indian’s head and temporarily demoralized the Indians.
At Goose Lake the volunteers met a small party of ten wagons headed for Western Oregon. There were only 20 men, five of them with families. McDermit warned them of the dangers near Tule Lake and detached two more men to serve as their guides. On August 19th they neared the southeast part of Tule Lake with no Indians in sight. The guides explained that it was a bad indication when Indians were not visible so the train cut northwest across the flats. As a combination safety measure and ruse the women and children were placed inside the wagons and the canvas fastened down. When almost at a safe location the Indians rushed toward them but seeing the men all armed with rifles and fearing that other men might be concealed in the wagons, retreated to some rocks where they were out of range. The wagons were formed in a circle and the Indians were challenged in Chinook jargon by one of the guides. It was finally agreed that the Chief and the guide would meet unarmed and parley. That was done but J. C. Tolman, who was in charge of the train, noticed something going on which aroused his suspicion. It was that Indians, apparently unarmed, gradually strolled near the parley and Tolman noticed that they had tied their bows to their toes with thongs, the bows dragging some distance behind. He warned the guide who ordered the chief to send his warriors away. The Chief, seeing that he had been out guessed, did so and agreed to let the party proceed without harm. The train started and soon discovered some mounted Indians who had concealed themselves, who upon becoming aware of their discovery went away.
On August 23rd Tolman’s party was traveling west and was met by an exhausted man on an exhausted horse. The man was so weak that he had to be lifted from his horse and fed before he could talk. He at length was able to say that he was the only survivor of a party of eight who had been overpowered by the Modocs and that he had ridden for three days without dismounting and without food. Tolman’s party took the man with them to Yreka but by the time they arrived the man was completely demented. The citizens of Yreka hearing the reports of the guides, the story about the demented man, and a recital of Tolman’s experiences, organized a second company of volunteers. It didn’t take long to recruit a company because Tolman’s party was the first that year to come through with women and children and the miners got to thinking about their own families and what might have happened had McDermit’s company not been on duty. Benjamin Wright was chosen Captain.
In six days they were at Tule Lake, three of the days having been devoted to equipping the company. They arrived at the lake in the nick of time for a battle was in progress between a surrounded wagon train and the Modocs and two whites had already been wounded. When the Indians saw the relief forces they scattered, some hiding in the tules around the lakeshore and others going to an island not far away. Wright’s company escorted the wagon train beyond danger and then returned. First they discovered the bodies of the men reported as slain in the recital of the demented man. Then they found the bodies of three of McDermit’s men who had been detached to act as guides for immigrant trains. It was plain to Wright and his company that the Indians were attacking every train, and, enraged at the sight of the dead men, the company determined to hunt down the Indians.
They went back to the lake at a point near the island and went into the tules after the Indians. There was a fierce fight in which more than 30 Modocs were killed. After the battle Wright went eastward and at Clear Lake met a large immigrant train. A ruse was decided upon. Several wagons were unloaded and filled with armed men. Some, dressed in women’s clothes, walked along with the drivers as they proceeded in the customary leisurely manner along the trail. But the Indians did not fall for the trick. Either their spies had witnessed the preparations or the recent battle had temporarily taken the fight out of them. Wright went to Yreka to order some boats so he could get his men to the island. Meanwhile his men continued to patrol the road through Modoc land.
The news of these Modoc attacks reached Jacksonville where another company under John E. Ross was organized and went immediately to the Modoc country. When Ross’ company arrived Wright went back to Yreka for the boats but they were of no use to him for the Indians had left the island and gone to the lava beds between Tule Lake and Clear Lake. But Wright’s men did find plenty of evidence in the former camp of the Indians women’s dresses, babies’ stockings, many other things until the men actually wept in their anger. Whether to try to form an army and hunt down the Modocs to the last man or whether to effect a treaty was the question Finally it was decided to try for the latter. Wright and his company staid and Wright started plans to bring about a council. From two Indians whom they had captured it was learned that two white women were captives. Wright thought that a treaty might save the lives of the women. Wright had a cross-breed Indian part Modoc as a personal servant, and sent him to the Modoc chiefs to arrange a parley. Four chiefs agreed to talk. Wright proposed to them that they return the two women and stolen property whereupon he would take his company back to Yreka unless the Indians preferred that he stay for a while to trade with them. The chiefs agreed and one went back to get the women while Wright retained the other three as hostages.
Wrights’ company had, by that time, been reduced to 18 men. The fourth Chief returned without the women but with 45 warriors. Wright denounced the chief for breaking his promise. The Chief said that since Wright had held the other chiefs as hostages that now Wright and his men would be held as hostages by the Modocs to insure good conduct on the part of all white people. It was a bad situation. Outnumbered 5 to 2 he succeeded in putting off the Indians until the next day for his decision. That night Wright moved fast. They were camped at a ford on Lost River. Six of his men sneaked across and of back of the Indians’ camp. At daybreak Wright fired a gun, which was the prearranged signal to attack, and the six men on one side of the Indian camp and Wright and his 12 men on the other charged. In a few minutes 40 Modoc were dead and four of Wright’s men wounded. Stretchers were made of rifles and the four men were carried 15 miles and a messenger sent back to Yreka for help. Upon their return to Yreka, Wright and his company were feted and praised. The two white women were sacrificed-how we do not know, but probably with all the cruelty peculiar to savages of whom the Modocs were worst.
It is not difficult to assert that had McDermit and Wright, their companies and their sponsors not aided the immigrants the progress of settlement would have been delayed. But better times were coming, not without Indian wars, but the beginning of the end of such wars, for in September 1852; the remnant of the 4th United States Infantry reached Vancouver Barracks. There were 268 men under Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin L. E. Bonneville. They were the survivors of the crossing of the Isthmus of Panama, but they were too sick and the season was too late for any affirmative action that winter.
We now return to the handicap placed upon the Superintendent of Indian Affairs and his agents. Skinner could not make good on his promises to Chief Sam because of the government order previously mentioned. Chief Sam didn’t want a treaty anyway. Still, through fear or some better quality, although Sam did not possess many, Sam, himself, kept faith with the treaty for almost a year. But one of his lesser chiefs, known as Taylor, did not. Grave Creek, a tributary of Wolf Creek, was the scene of the murder of seven men by Taylor and his braves. A cloudburst had occurred and during the downpour the murders were committed. Taylor reported finding the seven men drowned. Other overt acts were blamed on Taylor and rumor also had it that Rogues were holding white women captive at Table Rock. All these stories were not true but enough of them were to inflame the settlers, particularly with the addition of the proved and known murders and robberies in Modoc land. Desire to retaliate was rampant. In June 1852, Taylor and three of his warriors were captured by a posse from Jacksonville and the four were hanged. The posse then went to Table Rock to rescue the white women. Not finding any they killed six Indians. Things were in a mess. Both whites and Indians committed unwarranted acts against each other. There was no military authority in the Rogue River Valley and no Indian agent. This latter need was because there had been another change in the Superintendency of Indian Affairs. Joel Palmer had replaced Dart. Skinner had resigned. as Indian Agent and Palmer had not yet filled the vacancy. The nearest Federal troops were at Ft. Orford on the coast and Ft. Jones in Scott Valley. Joseph Lane had returned from
Washington, D. C. with a commission as Governor of Oregon Territory, but upon his return he had been re-elected Territorial Representative in Congress. Lane preferred the latter position, which left the Territorial Secretary George L. Curry as Acting Governor. Lane was residing at Roseburg.
Suddenly the whites in the Rogue River Valley were attacked. On August 4th Richard Edwards was killed at his home on Stuart’s Creek. On the 5th Thomas J. Wills and Rhodes Noland were killed and two others wounded. Volunteer companies were quickly recruited, the settlers were warned, and the women and children were gathered at centralized locations where the houses were fortified. A guard detail was left to protect them and the rest of the volunteers went to punish the Indians. On August 7th two Shasta were captured, both of them in war paint. They were guilty of two of the murders and were hanged at Jacksonville. Then the whites hung an innocent young Indian. If any white man felt like objecting he kept silent, such was the emotional state of the majority. Feeling was running high and if an innocent Indian, more or less, was to be hanged why protest. Acts like that had their repercussions. Many settlers’ homes were burned. A party headed by Isaac Hill attacked a nomad band near Ashland and killed six. Within two weeks the Indians evened she score by attacking an immigrant camp at Ashland killing two whites and wounding four. Four days later the Indians ambushed a volunteer patrol killing Dr. William R. Rose and wounding John R. Hardin so badly that he died. Then it was open season on Indians.
A petition was sent to Captain Alden, commanding at Ft. Jones, asking for arms and ammunition for the settlers. He came at once with 12 men to fulfill the request. Then a request was sent to Governor Curry asking him to requisition arms and ammunition from Colonel Bonneville at Vancouver Barracks and to include a howitzer in the requisition. Governor Curry acceded to the request and Bonneville honored the requisition. The munitions were forwarded in charge of Lieutenant A. V. Kautz and six soldiers plus 40 volunteers under Captain J. W. Nesmith. At the same time recruiting was under way in the Rogue River Valley. In a short time 200 had enlisted, who were formed into three companies under Captains John F. Miller, John L. Lamerick, and T. T. Tierney. Simultaneously 80 were recruited at Yreka and were divided into two companies under Captains James P. Goodall and Jacob Rhodes. All companies reported to Captain Alden, who was in overall command.
They learned that the Indians were congregating at Table Rock and decided to attack on the night of August 11th. But news came that the Indians were killing and burning in the Valley so many of the volunteers rushed away, without permission, to go to the aid of their families. For several days they patrolled the valley but finally assembled again. During their absence Alden, with a small force, was challenged to battle by Chief Sam but Alden didn’t have enough men left to risk an encounter. On August 15th most of his men having returned Alden moved against the Indians who were supposed to be in a canyon five miles north of Table Rock. The Indians had fled, first setting the forest afire.
On August 17, Lieutenant Ely of Yreka, with 25 men, found the Indians encamped on Evans Creek, 15 miles north of Table Rock. Ely knew that the main force had gone to Camp Stuart for supplies, so he retired to an open piece of ground between two creeks whose banks were lined with willows. From there he sent a messenger for reinforcements. Ely’s maneuver was not lost on Chief Sam who had his warriors wade across under cover of the willows and attack. Two of Ely’s men were killed at the first volley. Ely then retreated to a wooded ridge about 500 yards away but the Indians quickly surrounded them. The ensuing fight lasted three or four hours during which four more of Ely’s men were killed and four wounded, Ely among the latter. Then Captain Goodall and the rest of the Yreka volunteers arrived and the Indians fled.
Joseph Lane was at Roseburg when news of this newest outbreak reached him. Lane and 13 men, one of them Pleasant Armstrong of Yamhill County, left at once for the scene of action and upon arrival Captain Alden offered Lane the command, which Lane accepted on August 1st. The decision was to wage war aggressively. The troops, both regular and volunteer, were divided into two battalions. The plan called for Lane, with Alden and the companies of Goodall and Rhodes to proceed up-stream to the place where Ely had been defeated. The other battalion under John E. Ross was to go to the mouth of Evans Creek, thence up-stream to a junction with Lane, this joint maneuver to prevent the Indians again returning to harass the settlements.
The first day was difficult because of the smoke from the burning fires but they did find the enemy’s trail. The second day was about as bad. On August 24th they were barely under way when Lane, who was out in front, heard the crack of a rifle and voices, He directed Alden to take Goodall and his company and to proceed on foot quietly so that they would be able to attack from the front. He then sent ten picked men from Rhodes’ company under Lieutenant Blair to work its way to a ridge on the left to turn the Indians if they were driven back. Lane himself was to stay where he was until the rest of the troops came up when he would lead them into the fight. Alden succeeded in getting within shooting distance of the Indians before they were aware of his presence. The Indians were stationed behind log fortifications and had plenty of guns and ammunition. Their camp was surrounded by dense thickets thus making a charge by troops both difficult and dangerous. Blair and his men were also handicapped by the thickets and the terrain so that he was not able to go to the left as planned but did get around to the right where he engaged the enemy. The troops took cover behind trees in true Indian fashion and the battle raged.
When Lane came up with his troops he found Alden seriously wounded, in fact so badly that he never recovered, though it was two years before he died as a result of his wounds. Lane looked the situation over and in spite of the fact that he found the Indians in strong position on Evans Creek he ordered a charge, which he led. A rifle bullet struck him in the arm near the shoulder. He ordered his men to take individual cover, so from behind trees and boulders they fought for several hours. Lane had to retire to have his wound dressed and at about that time the Indians learned that Lane was in command. As usual that knowledge brought results, for the Indians had a hearty respect for Lane. They called out to the volunteers that they were tired of war and said they wanted to talk with Jo Lane.
When Lane returned to the battle he learned of the expressed wish of the Indians and held a council with his officers. As always happened there were two opinions. Some thought that the hostiles wanted to quit; others considered it a move to gain time or some other advantage. It was decided to take a vote, all volunteers being declared eligible, but less than half actually voted. The decision was to send two men to talk to the Indians. Robert B. Metcalf and James Bruce went inside the Indian lines and returned with the word that the Indians still insisted that they wanted to talk to Jo Lane. So Lane went, concealing his injured arm beneath his cloak. He met his namesake Chief Jo, who with his brothers Chiefs Sam and Jim, told Lane that they were sick of war. Lane outlined treaty terms which included going into reservation and the Chiefs agreed. A date in early September was fixed for the treaty council and Lane returned to his lines. The wounded were being treated and the dead were being buried. Three white men had been killed, one of them being Pleasant Armstrong, previously mentioned and for whom a small valley was named. Three whites were wounded, one, Charles C. Abbott dying within a few days. The Indians lost eight killed and 20 wounded. Ross’ battalion arrived too late for the battle and they were prevented from renewing the battle by Lane. He decided to remain where he was for two days and camped within 400 yards of the Indians. So great was their personal regard for Lane that the Indian women carried water to the wounded whites and brought them on litters into the troops’ camp Thus was Indian nature, from one extreme to the other.
On the 29th both forces moped down the valley each watchful of the other. It has been agreed that the council would be held on the south side of the Rogue River near Table Rock. Both forces went into camp, Lane’s men at the spot where Ft. Lane was established soon after the council was held.
Since the treaty council had to await the arrival of Joel Palmer, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, an interim armistice was agreed upon. Meanwhile the peaceful status quo, which should have ensued, was interrupted. Four days after the Evans Creek battle a detachment under Lieutenant Thomas Frazell encountered a group of Rogue River Indians at Long’s Ferry. A fight occurred at once and Lieutenant Frazell and an enlisted man, James Mago, were killed. Lieutenant Frazell had been attached to Captain Owens’ company, and soon after Frazell’s death Owens induced a group of Indians to come into his camp on Grave Creek where the Indians were immediately shot. According to Government documents Robert L. Williams, a captain of volunteers, also killed 12 Indians in a one-sided fight, the volunteers losing one man. Martin Angell, a settler, shot an Indian in cold blood for which he was ambushed and killed by Indians a long time afterward.
While waiting for Palmer there were other arrivals on the scene. Captain A. J. Smith came from Ft. Orford with his dragoons. J. W. Nesmith brought his company of volunteers and Lieutenant Kautz, of the artillery, arrived with the howitzer. The Indians stood in abject terror of the big gun and begged that it not be fired.
On September 4th a preliminary council was held in which Lane required that a hostage be furnished and a son of Chief Jo was delivered for that purpose. It turned out to be a wise precaution. The various principals met within the Indian lines about a mile from Lane’s camp In addition to Lane there were Colonel Ross, interpreter Robert B. Metcalf, and the commanding officers of the several volunteer companies. The Indians were represented by Chiefs Jo, Sam, and Jim of the Rogue River Indians and Chiefs Limpy and George of the tribes on the Applegate River. The white men were unarmed except for a pistol, which Captain John F. Miller had secreted. The councilors sat within a circle of armed warriors. The situation didn’t look good but all the chiefs except Limpy made speeches in favor of peace. When Limpy’s turn came he made a bitter speech in which he said that he would never agree to the occupation of his country by the whites. The fact that Chief Jo’s son was a hostage was probably the only reason that the white men left the meeting alive. As it was Lane required other hostages to be furnished before the real council meeting which was set for September 8th and also led to the presence of armed guards near the unarmed councilors when the meeting took place.
The treaty was concluded. The Indians accepted $60,000 for their lands in the Rogue River Valley, less some damages to settlers for losses. Payment was in agricultural implements and other goods. One hundred square miles near Table Rock was set aside as a temporary home for the Indians until a permanent reservation could be selected; and the laws of the United States were to prevail. Another treaty was made with the Umpquas of the Cow Creek band by which they sold 800 square miles for $12,000 plus some presents for their chiefs.
After the conclusion of these treaties Samuel H. Culver was made Resident Indian Agent among the Rogues and Ft. Lane was built near Table Rock. Gradually normal life seemed to be returning to the valley. All volunteer companies except that under Captain John F. Miller were disbanded. Miller’s outfit was sent to the Modoc country for patrol duty, keeping the road safe for immigrants. They discovered Modoc families hiding out on the islands in Tule Lake and found the Indian children wearing the bloodstained garments of murdered immigrant children. The volunteers took the law unto themselves and wiped out these Modocs in retribution for the murders which they had committed.
In October, 1853, the miners in the valley of the Illinois River asked that troops be sent to punish Indians from the coast tribes who had been driven inland by the miners working on the beaches. Lieutenant R. C. W. Radford at Ft. Lane was ordered to take a small detachment and stop the Indians’ forays. He found the Indians too numerous for his small detail to handle and sent for reinforcements. They arrived under the leadership of Lieutenant Caster and on October 22nd started to round up the Indians. After three days the soldiers caught up with the hostiles. A fight followed in which ten or twelve Indians were killed. The troopers lost two killed and four wounded. Some stolen property was recovered and a treaty was made. This treaty was observed until January 1854, when a party of miners who were attempting to track down some robbers who were unidentified, attacked the Indians who had made the treaty, with some losses to both sides. The attack was ‘a blunder by the miners and should not have occurred. The incident was not closed until the Indian Agent arrived and succeeded in convincing the Indians that the whole affair had been a mistake.
The number of killings by Indians in Southern Oregon in 1853 was about 100, while the Indians lost many more. Technically the boundary between Oregon and California was at the 42nd parallel but the natural geography of the country lent itself to considering the dividing line as indefinite. Hence, in the progress of Southern Oregon Indian troubles the troops and the Indians both criss-crossed the actual boundary and it was not always easy to determine in which territory a killing or a fight had happened. That year the financial loss to the settlers was heavy and due to governmental red-tape many legitimate claims resulting from these losses to Indians and damage by them were not settled for 30 years.
Peace did not last a great while after the treaty of September 1853 and the erection of Ft. Lane. The Indians were displeased with the treaty they had accepted and became troublesome. On October 5th Thomas Wills, a merchant of Jacksonville, was murdered by Indians. Next day his partner, James C. Kyle, was killed within a short distance of Ft. Lane. There were other killings down the river. The murderers of Wills and Kyle were Indian Tom and Indian George. They were caught in January 1854, and fairly tried in court, convicted and executed. Their execution was set for February 19th but owing to the uneasiness pervading the district, the sentence was carried out within a few days after the conclusion of the trial. The execution did not help the general situation.
About January 18, 1854, Chief Bill led a group of Rogues, Shasta, and Modocs in the theft of the horses, which belonged to the miners who were working Cottonwood Creek. A volunteer company was organized at once and started in pursuit to recover the horses. The volunteers were ambushed and four of them, Hiram Hulan, John Clark, John Oldfield, and Wesley Mayden were killed. Help was asked from Ft. Jones and Captain Judah and 20 men responded. The soldiers trailed the Indians to a cave in the canyon walls of the Klamath River and finding the cave impregnable without artillery sent to Ft. Lane for a howitzer. On January 26th Captain A. J. Smith and Lieutenant Ogle and 15 dragoons arrived with the howitzer. The volunteer company under Captain Greiger had joined with the regulars and Captain Judah falling ill, the command passed to Greiger, who attacked on the 27th. The cave was in an inaccessible place and the howitzer shells served no purpose except to frighten the Indians. Captain Greiger was killed by a shot from the cave and then the Indians indicated a willingness to talk.
The following day Captain Smith and a citizen held a parley with the Shasta. Captain Smith accepted the Indians’ story that the miners had mistreated the Indian women as the reason for their acts, and further accepted their apologies for the thefts and murders. The volunteers considered it useless, in the face of Captain Smith’s gullibility, to attempt to further punish the Indians and returned home in disgust.
Other trouble broke out the same month between the Coquille Indians and the miners at Coos Bay and Port Orford. A meeting of citizens was held and a punitive expedition organized under George H. Abbott, Captain, A. F. Soap, 1st Lieutenant, and William H. Packwood, 2nd Lieutenant. The objective was the same village where the Coquille River massacre had occurred. It was located about a mile and a half up stream and occupied space on both sides of the river. Captain Abbott divided his volunteers into three detachments. Lieutenant Soap’s group was to take a position on rising ground commanding that portion of the village on the north shore. Lieutenant Packwood was to take a roundabout way to his position near the upper part of the village on the south shore, while Captain Abbott would cover the lower portion of the south shore village. At a signal gun all attacked just before daybreak, the Indians being completely surprised. They lost 16 killed and four wounded, the surviving warriors fleeing to the woods. They abandoned their families of whom 20 members were captured as well as all the native stores of food. When the warriors fled many of them left their arms and ammunition in their habitations, which were burned. The white men suffered no casualties. Abbott sent three of the captive women to ask the Chief what he wanted to do. They returned with the reply that the Chief wanted to make a treaty, which was done.
We have previously mentioned the mutual antipathies existing between the regular army and the volunteers. Perhaps the man who was most responsible for that situation was General John Ellis Wool, for some time in command of the Pacific Division. It is true that the year 1854 carried a small number of murders by Indians compared with the several years immediately proceeding, but still there were murders. Edward Phillips was murdered in his house on Applegate River on April 15th; Daniel Gage was killed in the Siskiyous June 15th; a man was killed on the Klamath River on June 24th and Thomas O’Neal in the same district at about the same time. Four men were murdered by either the Modocs or the Pit River Indians in June and in September another man was killed by the same Indians. None of the murderers was punished. The reason for non-punishment undoubtedly lay in General Wool’s attitude of special dislike for volunteers, in fact for all civilians, and the desire of his subordinate officers to temper their action and reports to find favor in the General’s opinion. The General did send a mounted force to Klamath Lake and back, reporting no danger from Indians. Wool even went so far in requesting additional troops that he said he needed an increased force to protect the Indians against the white men. His request for reinforcements was not honored. He later reported that, in his opinion, the increasing immigration into Oregon would render military occupation almost unnecessary and that, if left to his discretion, he would abolish most of the army posts in the Territory. So the settlers were again forced to rely chiefly on themselves for protective volunteer units. Governor Curry approved a volunteer force under the command of Jesse Walker to protect the southern route. They did no fighting and the expedition was criticized for its expense, but its presence was probably responsible for the prevention of untoward acts by the tribes.
At the close of 1854 there were 335 regular soldiers of all departments stationed in Oregon Territory. Congress invoked a law of 1808 for providing arms for militia, and that constituted the Federal protection for the Territory when the year 1855 began. Indian trouble elsewhere in the Territory was occupying official attention, which, of course, included the Governor and the Superintendent of Indian Affairs. We will, in a later chapter, take up those events, but now confine ourselves to the continuance and the conclusion of the Rogue River wars.