Rye Valley Oregon

Joseph Benoit and Charles Van Clay discovered gold in Rye Valley in the spring of 1863 and laid a claim on the waters of Dixie creek and begun digging a ditch.

They went over to Mormon Basin and offered Mr. Ingraham an interest in their discovery which he declined, thinking he had a better prospect in the Basin. In 1864, Russell and Archambeau owned the ditch which conveyed water to the lower portion of the diggings. In that year Walter Fernald, J. C. Powers, and Joseph Yowell went over to the camp from Mormon Basin and Fernald, Powers and Odell bought the ditch of Russell and Archambeau, and in 1866 constructed a new ditch eleven miles in length, bringing water higher up on the mining ground, and affording work for fifty to sixty men for many years. The total cost of ditches and reservoirs constructed by Fernald and company exceeded thirty thousand dollars. The amount of gold taken out up to 1862 is estimated at over $1,000,000.

Every spring and summer for many years, Indians stole nearly all the stock in and about the camp. In 1867 two Indians stole a horse which they took to a spring on the mountain between Dixie creek and Burnt river, where they camped. Lum Davis and two others went in pursuit. When near the camp, Mr. Davis, according to his usual tactics in such cases directed the other two men to go, one to the right, the other to the left whilst he proceeded directly to the camp himself. When the Indians discovered him they seized their bows and arrows and were preparing to use them, but Davis was too quick for them. They were both in direct line with him and he brought them down with one shot. Upon going to the camp it was found that they had killed the horse and were drying the meat to preserve it. It appears they were preparing a place of rendezvous for others who were to come on and join them, for they would not have killed the horse if they intended to return immediately. There were a number of Indians in the same country some time after, who killed Scott and his wife and a man named Folger.

Scott lived on Burnt River, and was returning from Rye Valley, the first day of September, 1867, his wife and children in the wagon with him, when the Indians fired upon them, Scott fell back in the wagon and his wife seized the lines, though mortally wounded herself, and drove down the road to Burnt river as fast as the horses could run. When the team started on the run the Indians rushed down upon them, one getting near enough to seize hold of the wagon but could not retain his hold.

It seemed marvelous that a team and wagon should go down that steep, rough road at such speed and escape accident, but they did arrive at the barnyard gate and stopped without one of the family being thrown out of the wagon. Mrs. Scott beckoned to a couple of men whom she saw at a little distance from the barn, and when they came up she said: “We’ve been shot by Indians”. Scott was still living when they took him out of the wagon, he said “This finishes me.” He lived but a short time after he was carried into the house and Mrs. Scott died a few hours later.

There were Indians in the vicinity of the ferry at Farewell Bend on Snake River the night after Scott and his wife were killed. Mr. Packwood, who was then running the ferry, had built a small fire proof fort in which he kept arms and every thing ready for defense if an attack should be made.

Two days after Scott was shot, a man rode up to Mr. Packwood’s house and called Mrs. Packwood to the door and told her he wanted help to dismount as he had been shot by Indians. She called Mr. Packwood who helped the man from his horse and carried him into the house and took care of him. The man died nine days afterwards. His name was Folger.

He stated that he was riding along the trail from Mormon Basin to the ferry, when he was fired upon by some Indians concealed amongst some rocks on the side of the hill above the trail. One ball passed through his hips and another one through his thigh, but badly wounded as he was he held on to his horse which ran down the gulch at a rapid rate for about three miles. Here he managed to get off the horse and get a drink of water at the creek, but failed to remount again and had to lie there the rest of the day and all night. The next day he renewed his efforts to get upon the horse, frequently becoming exhausted in the struggle and as often trying again when his strength was restored by a short rest. Finally in the evening he succeeded in climbing upon his horse and rode two miles to the ferry, having been alone in the hills thirty-six hours after he was shot.

In those days it was no unusual thing for persons who were traversing the country from Burnt river southward to the headwaters of the Owyhee, to find the remains of men who had doubtless been killed by Indians. Not withstanding the well known danger, men would go through the country, sometimes one alone, sometimes in small parties, and in all probability, but few of those who perished left any trace, that has ever been discovered, to tell their fate.

Mr. Packwood gave Mr. Scott some fruit trees in the year 1865, which he planted on his ranch on Burnt River, the first fruit trees planted in the county. Two years afterwards in the latter part of August, he invited Mr. and Mrs. Packwood to come up to his place and partake of the first peaches the trees had borne, and accompany himself and wife to Rye Valley to attend a dance there the last day of August. Mr. Packwood had to decline the invitation on account of business, and thus escaped being exposed to attack by Indians, as it was on Scott’s return that he and his wife received the wounds which caused their death.


AccessGenealogy.com. Baker County Oregon Genealogy.

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