Washington State Seal

Governor Stevens, Washington Legislature, Building a New State

Washington State Seal
Washington State Seal

Isaac Ingalls Stevens, the man who had been sent to organize the government of Washington, was one fitted by nature and education to impress himself upon the history of the country in a remarkable degree. He was born at Andover, Massachusetts, and educated in the military school of West Point, from which he graduated, in 1839, with the highest honors. He had charge for a few years of fortifications on the New England coast. He had been on the staff of General Scott in Mexico, and for four years previous to his appointment as governor of Washington had been an assistant of Professor Bache on the coast survey, which gave him the further training which was to make his name prominent in connection with the survey for the Northern Pacific railroad-the historic road of the continent-the idea of which had for thirty years been developing in connection with the Columbia River and a route to China.

Congress having at length authorized the survey of this and other routes to the Pacific, Stevens was placed in charge of the northern line, whose terminus, by the progress of discovery and events, was now fixed at Puget Sound. He was to proceed from the head waters of the Mississippi to this inlet of the Pacific, and report not only upon the route, but upon the Indian tribes along it, with whom he was to establish friendly relations, and, when practicable, to treat. The manner in which the survey was conducted is spoken of in another portion of my work, and I proceed here with the narration of territorial affairs. 1 The day appointed by Governor Stevens for electing a delegate to congress and members of a council and house of representatives was the 30th of January, 1854, the members chosen to convene at Olympia February 27th following. In the time intervening, two political parties organized and enacted the usual contest over their candidates. The democratic candidate for delegate to congress, Columbia Lancaster, is not unknown to the reader. He had served the county of Lewis in the council of the Oregon legislature, if service it could be called, in which he did nothing but cover himself with ridicule. His Whig opponent was William H. Wallace, 2 and the independent candidate M. L. Simmons, who, notwithstanding his popularity as a man and a democrat, received only eighteen votes. 3 Wallace received 500, and Lancaster 690. Democracy was strong on the north side of the Columbia, as it was on the south, but it had not yet assumed the same dictatorial tone, 4 and Lancaster, who had affiliated with the whips in 1851 in Oregon, was a thorough enough democrat in 1853. 5 He had a talent for humorous story telling, which in debate often goes as far as argument or forensic eloquence before a promiscuous assemblage. The unsuccessful candidates were John M. Hayden, 6 surgeon at Fort Steilacoom, F. A. Chenoweth, Judge Strong, Gilmore Hays, 7 and W. H. Wallace.

In the legislature, which organized by choosing G. N. McConaha 8 president of the council, and F. A. Chenoweth speaker of the lower house, there was a democratic majority of one in the council 9 and six in the house of representatives; but there was no undue exhibition of partisan zeal, nor any occasion for it, the assembly being impressed with the importance of the public duties which had been assigned to them. The organization being completed on the 28th, Governor Stevens was invited to communicate to the legislature a message, in which he made certain statements which will not be out of place here as an introduction to his administration and the history of the territory.

After a just encomium upon the country and its natural advantages for commerce, he reminded them that as the Indian title to lands had not been extinguished, nor a law passed for its extinguishment, titles could not be secured under the land law of congress, and the public surveys were languidly conducted. He spoke of the importance of a road to Walla Walla, another to the Columbia, and one along the eastern shore of the Sound to Bellingham Bay, and advised them to memorialize congress on the urgent necessity for these roads, to prevent suffering and loss to the immigrations. He counseled them to ask for a surveyor general of the territory, and that liberal appropriations might be made for the surveyors, that they might keep in advance of the settlements. He proposed to request an amendment to the land law making it possible to acquire title by the payment of the minimum valuation, by a residence of one year, or by improvements equal to the minimum valuation, and that single women should be placed on the same footing with married women. He recommended the early settlement of the boundary line between Washington and the British territory on the north, and that congress should be memorialized on this subject, and on the importance of continuing the geographical and geological surveys already commenced. He made the usual prophetic remarks on the Pacific railroads, 10 referred to the inefficient mail service, of which I have spoken at length in the history of Oregon, gave same advice concerning the preparation of a code of laws, and adverted to the importance of organizing new counties east of the Cascade Range, and readjusting the boundaries of some of the older ones.

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In referring to the position occupied by the Hudson’s Bay and Puget Sound Agricultural companies, the governor declared them to have certain rights granted to them, and lands confirmed to them, but that the vague nature of their limits must lead to disputes concerning their possessions, and recommended that congress should be memorialized to extinguish their title. As to the right of the Hudson’s Bay Company to trade with the Indians, that he said was no longer allowed, and under instructions from the secretary of state he had already informed the company that they would be given until July to wind up their affairs, after which time the laws regulating intercourse with the Indians would be rigidly enforced.

He recommended a special commission to report on a school system, and that congress should be asked to appropriate land for a university; also that some military training should be included in the curriculum of the higher schools. An efficient militia system was declared to be necessary in a distant territory, which must in case of war be compelled for a time to rely upon itself; and this he thought, with the arms and ammunition to which the territory would be entitled under the laws of congress, would enable it to protect itself from any foreign invader. 11 Such is a brief abstract of the first message of the first governor of Washington, which is an epitome also of the condition, needs, and prospects of the new commonwealth. Most of the suggestions made by the governor were carried out in some form.

Immediately after organization, the house adopted for the territorial seal a device furnished by Lieutenant J. K. Duncan of Stevens’ surveying expedition. 12

The first bill passed was on the 1st of March, an act providing for a board of commissioners to prepare a code of laws for the territory; the board appointed consisting of judges Edward Lander, Victor Monroe, and William Strong, who adopted as many of the laws of Oregon as they found practicable, and other suitable ones from other codes,” the laws originated by the legislature being chiefly local.

The counties of Sawamish, 13 Whatcom, 14 Clallam, Chehalis, Cowlitz, Wahkiakum, Skamania, and Walla Walla 15 were created, the latter with the county seat “on the land claim of Lloyd Brooks,” now the site of the city of Walla Walla. The county seat of Clarke County was fixed at Vancouver, 16 “on the east side of Mrs Esther Short’s land claim,” and by the same act Mrs Short’s dwelling was made the legal place of holding courts until suitable buildings should be erected by the county. 17 The county seat of Chehalis County was fixed temporarily “at the house of D. K. Weldon;” of Cowlitz, at Monticello ; and of Skamania, at the “south-east corner of the land claim of F. A. Chenoweth.”

Olympia was fixed upon as the temporary seat of government, the judicial districts were defined, and the judges assigned to them as follows: the first district comprised Walla Walla, Skamania, Clarke, Cowlitz, Wahkiakum, and Pacific counties, Judge McFadden; second district, Lewis, Chehalis, Thurston, and Sawamish counties, Judge Monroe; third district, Pierce, King, Island, Clallam, Jefferson, and Whatcom, Judge Lander. At the second session of the legislature Lander was assigned to the second district, and the judge of that district to the third, which brought the chief justice to the more central portion of the territory. In their districts the judges were required to reside, and to hold two terms of the district court annually in each county, except in those which were attached to some other for judicial purposes, like Walla Walla, which was attached to Skamania, and Chehalis to Thurston.

The first federal court held in Washington after the organization of the territory was by the proclamation of the governor on the 2d day of January, 1854, at Cowlitz landing, by Judge Monroe, who in May held regular terms in all the counties of his district according to the act of the legislature, and to the  satisfaction of the people. Yet in October he was removed, upon the false representation of some persons unknown that he had absented himself from the territory. 18 P. A. Chenoweth was appointed in his place, and was present as the judge of the 2d judicial district at the meeting of the supreme court in Olympia in December, 19 the bench now containing but one of the original appointees for Washington, Lander, the chief justice. 20

There was none of that romantic attempt at creating something out of nothing in the first acts of the Washington legislature which invested with so much interest the beginnings of government in Oregon, for the legislators had at the outset the aid of United States judges and men familiar with law, besides having the government at their back to defray all necessary expenses. There is therefore nothing to relate concerning their acts, except in instances already pointed out in the message of Governor Stevens, where certain local interests demanded peculiar measures or called for the aid of congress.

The most important matter to which the attention of the national legislature was called was a change in the land law, to effect which congress was memorialized to grant them a surveyor-general of their own, and a land system “separate from, and wholly disconnected with, that of Oregon territory. 21

By comparing the demands with the memorials of the Oregon legislature from time to time, it will be perceived that the earth hunger was not all confined to the people south of the Columbia. And by reference to my history of Oregon, the reader may learn to what extent congress responded to the demands of both legislatures in the matter of amount of bounty and limit of tine. 22 A surveyor-general and register and receiver were given to Washington; in no other wise was a separate land system granted; but the new territory was entitled to the same privileges with Oregon, no more or different. 23

Next in importance was a memorial relative to the extinguishment of the Indian title, congress being urged to make provisions for the immediate purchase of the lands occupied by the natives; and this request was granted, as I shall soon proceed to show. Congress was also asked to change the organic act of the territory, which apportioned the legislature by the number of qualified voters, so as to make the apportionment by the number of inhabitants, which was not allowed. Not less important than either of these was a memorial concerning the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, and the difference of opinion existing between the company and the citizens of Washington in relation to the rights of the association under the treaty of 1846. The memorial set forth that the then present moment was an auspicious one for the extinction of their title, and gave as a reason that “buildings, once valuable, from long use are now measurably worthless; and lands once fertile, which paid the tiller of the soil, are now become destitute of any fertilizing qualities; that said farms are now less valuable than the same amount of lands in a state of nature;” and congress was entreated to save the country from this deterioration. 24 The memorial also stated that at the period of the ratification of the treaty the amount of land enclosed by the Puget Sound Company at Cowlitz and Nisqually did riot exceed 2,000 acres, yet that the company claimed 227 square miles, or in other words, all the land over which their herds of wild stock occasionally roamed, or to which they were from time to time removed for change of pasture. The Americans held that the treaty confirmed only the lands enclosed by fences. They had settled upon and improved the unenclosed lands in many instances; yet they had received written notices from the agents of the company commanding them to vacate their homes or be served with writs of ejectment and trespass; for which causes congress was petitioned to take steps to ascertain the rights of the company, and to purchase them. 25

A joint resolution was also passed instructing the delegate to congress to use his influence with the administration to effect a settlement of the disputed boundary between the United States and Great Britain, involving the right to the islands of the archipelago of Haro, the matter being afterward known as the San Juan question, and to take some steps to remove the foreign trespassers from the islands-a resolution suggested, as we already know, by the message of Governor Stevens. 26

The selection of territorial officers by the legislature resulted in the appointment of William Cook treasurer, D. B. Bigelow auditor, F. A. Chenoweth prosecuting attorney of the first judicial district, D. R. Bigelow for the second, and F. A. Clarke for the third. B. F. Kendall 27 was chosen territorial librarian., The legislature adjourned May 1st, after passing 125′ acts, and conducting its business harmoniously.

That which appears as most deserving of comment in the proceedings of this body is a resolution passed early in the session, that, in its opinion, no disadvantage could result to the territory should the governor proceed to Washington city, “if, in his judgment, the interest of the Pacific railroad survey and the matters incident thereto could thereby be promoted.” Stevens was anxious to report in person on the results of the railroad survey. In anticipation of this, he made a voyage down the Sound, looking for the best point for the terminus of the Northern Pacific, and he named Steilacoom, Seattle, and Bellingham Bay as impressing him favorably. 28 But there were other matters which he wished to bring to the attention of the government in his capacity of superintendent of Indian affairs for Washington, and as a commissioner to ascertain what were the rights and what was the property of the Hudson’s Bay and Puget Sound companies in Oregon and Washington, as well as to urge the settlement of the northern boundary of the latter territory. 29

The matter of the boundary line between the island of Vancouver and Washington was a later question. The earliest conflict arose in 1854 between I. N. Ebey, in the discharge of his official duties as collector of customs, and a justice of the peace under the colonial government of Vancouver Island, named Griffin. Ebey finding San Juan Island covered with several thousand head of sheep, horses, cattle, and hogs, imported from Vancouver Island without being entered at the custom-house, was questioned by Griffin as to his intentions in paying the island a visit, and declined to answer, but proceeded to encamp near the shore. On the following day the Hudson’s Bay Company’s steamer Otter ran over from Vancouver and anchored in front of Ebey’s encampment, sending a boat ashore, in which was Mr Sankster, collector of customs for the port of Victoria, who also desired to know Ebey’s, errand, and was told that he was there in his official capacity of collector for the district of Puget Sound. Sankster then declared that he should arrest all persons and seize all vessels found navigating the waters west of Rosario strait and north of the middle of the strait of Juan de Fuca.

This growl of the British lion, so far from putting to flight the American eagle, only caused its representative to declare that an inspector of customs should remain upon the island to enforce the revenue laws of the United States, and that he hoped no persons pretending to be officers of the British government would be so rash as to interfere with the discharge of his official duties. Sankster then ordered the British flag to be displayed on shore, which was done by hoisting it over the quarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company on the island.

During these proceedings James Douglas, governor of Vancouver Island and vice-admiral of the British navy, was on board the Otter, waiting for Ebey to capitulate. Sankster even proposed that he should go on board the Otter to hold a conference with his Excellency, but the invitation was declined, with a declaration that the collector of Puget Sound would be happy to meet Governor Douglas at his tent. Soon after, the steamer returned to Victoria, leaving a boat and crew to keep watch; and Ebey next day appointed and swore into office Inspector Webber, whom he stationed on San Juan Island. 30

This occurrence was in the latter part of April or first of May 1854, about the time that Governor Stevens left the territory for Washington city, and was probably occasioned in part by the intimations given in the message of the governor and resolution of the legislature that the question of boundary would be agitated, with a desire and determination on the part of Douglas to hold the islands in the Fuca straits when the struggle came. This subject furnished a valid reason for wishing to secure the attention of the heads of government. The extinguishment of the Indian titles was perhaps more imperative than any other, and to this Stevens addressed himself with the energy, ability, and straightforwardness which were his characteristics, supplementing the feebler efforts of Lancaster, and with Lane of Oregon coming to the rescue of the most important bills for Washington, 31 and really doing the work of the delegate. In his readiness to assume every responsibility, Stevens resembled Thurston of Oregon, but was more solidly and squarely built, like Napoleon, whom he resembled in figure, and less nervously irritable. No amount of labor appalled him; and when in the midst of affairs of the gravest importance, he was alert and buoyant without being unduly excited.

The appropriations obtained for Washington by Lancaster, assisted by Stevens and Lane, were $30,000 for a military road from the great falls of the Missouri to intersect the road leading from Walla Walla to Puget Sound. This was a scheme originating with Stevens, who thought by making the Missouri River a highway, and constructing a road from its head waters to the navigable waters of the Columbia, or to intersect with the old immigrant road, to shorten the distance travelled by wagons and lessen the hardships of immigration, as well as to avoid the danger from Indian attacks on a portion of the road by the South pass. For this reason, and to cultivate the friendship of the Indians, as well as to make a more thorough exploration of the Blackfoot country for railroad passes, he left Lieutenants Grover and Mullan and Mr Doty in the mountain region west of the Missouri through the winter of 1853-4, during which the line of road across the Rocky Mountains, from Fort Benton to Coeur d’Alene Lake, was marked out, and afterward used as the route for the expenditure of the congressional appropriation named above, and which, from the fact that Mullan was appointed to construct it, took the name of the Mullan road.

An appropriation of $25,000 was made for the construction of a military road from Fort Dalles to Fort Vancouver, and of $30,000 for a road from Vancouver to Fort Steilacoom; for light-houses at Cape Shoalwater, Blunt’s Island, Cape Flattery, and New Dungeness, $89,000; and for buoys at the entrance of Dungeness and the anchorages on Puget Sound, $5,000. Some increase was made in the salaries of territorial officers, and a liberal appropriation for the Indian service, including $100,000 to enable Stevens to treat with the Blackfoot and other tribes in the north and east portions of the territory.

Washington territory, or that portion of it to which its early history chiefly relates, was surrounded by and at the mercy of the most numerous, if not the most warlike, native tribes of the original territory of Oregon. The census in Stevens’ report, 1853-4, gave the whole number of Indians in western Washington as between seven and eight thousand, and east of the Cascade Mountains between six and seven thousand. 32 Besides the tribes actually resident about the Sound, the settlements were liable to incursions from the Haidahs of Queen Charlotte Island, and even from the tribes of the coast as far north as Fort Simpson, these tribes being good seamen, and possessing large and strong war canoes, in which they made long voyages to commit a murder or a theft. 33 The Indians on the sea-coast of Washington and along the strait of Fuca were sometimes guilty of murder, and those about the settlements could not always withstand the temptation to commit a robbery, for which they were promptly punished when detected, but no serious outbreaks had yet occurred since the organization of the territory.

In July 1852 the United States coast surveying steamer Active, James R. Alden commanding, with a surveying party under Lieutenants Davidson and Lawson, entered Neah Bay, and encamped on the shore near the trading post of Samuel Hancock, having gained the full consent of the Makahs living there in order not to give offence. The steamer then proceeded on a preliminary survey up the strait to Dungeness and Port Townsend, Davidson establishing astronomical stations at the latter place and Port Angeles, after which he returned to Neah Bay, and the Active again left for Shoalwater Bay to make a survey there before the close of the season, leaving the party of nine persons at Neah Bay without the means of quitting that station until she should return. The camp was well armed with rifles, cavalry pistols, shot-guns, and revolvers, and although not apprehending any danger, were prepared for an attack. All went well for a few days after the departure of the steamer, when a fleet of canoes containing between 150 and 200 Nitinats from Vancouver Island anchored in the bay, most of them remaining in their boats. Thinking this a precautionary measure to avoid quarrels between the resident tribes and the strangers, the surveying party remained in negligent satisfaction, pleased with this apparent discretion of the visitors.

But Hancock, who was buying fish oil of them, had discovered, by overhearing on the second day a conversation not intended for his ears, a plot to massacre himself and the surveying party, and possess themselves of the goods and arms of both. He hastened to impart this information to Davidson and Lawson, who immediately loaded all their arms, threw up a breastwork, and detailed a night watch. Hancock, who had two men at his post, made preparations for an attack, and himself mounted guard. During the night some Indians came ashore and proceeded in the direction of the surveyors’ camp, but being challenged by the guard, retreated to their canoes, which took their departure at daybreak. The plot originated with the Vancouver Island Indians, the Makahs being reluctant accomplices, fearing the vengeance of the white people. Happily nothing came of it, and nothing was said about it to the Makahs. 34

Not long afterward the schooner Cynosure, Fowler master, from San Francisco, visited Noah Bay, having on board two Makahs, and a white man sick with what proved to be smallpox. The disease had been communicated to Indians, who soon fell ill and spread the contagion among their tribe, who perished by scores from its ravages. Not being able to control it, they conceived the idea of running away from the scourge, and fled to Vancouver Island, where they communicated it to the Nitinats. The beach at Neah Bay was strewn with the unburied bodies of the miserable Makahs, who were no longer able or willing-to attend the sick or bury the dead. At the end of six weeks the disease abated, but the tribe had lost a large percentage of its members, and was plunged in grief. After a few months of brooding over their losses, they came to the conclusion, as they had never experienced such a visitation before Hancock came to live among them, that he must have originated the plague, and he was threatened with death if he remained. His trading post was therefore vacated in the spring of 1853. 35

In September 1853 a large party of the Makahs visited New Dungeness in their canoes, encamping on a sand-spit at the entrance to the harbor, having among them an Indian who had killed Albert Pettingill near Port Townsend in the previous spring. On being informed of this by a Clallam, McAlmond, Bradshaw, Abernethy, Cline, Brownfield, and Moore, being all the settlers who were in the neighborhood at the time, met, and having sent for re-enforcements, finally delegated Brownfield to seek an interview with the Indians and demand the surrender of the murderer. But upon visiting their camp, the Makahs refused to deliver up the guilty one, challenging the white men to battle. Being re-enforced by J. C. Brown, H. W. Watkins, and William. Failing, the settlers attempted to enter the Indian camp, when they were fired upon. Firing followed from both sides, and in the affair two Indians were killed, two wounded, and one white man slightly hurt by a ball in the neck. Darkness put an end to the engagement, which was conducted in canoes, and the Indians dispersed, the murderer going to Port Townsend. 36

On hearing of the attempted capture and the escape of the murderer, Captain Alden pursued him from port to port in the Active, and succeeded in overtaking him at Port Ludlow, where the chiefs of his tribe coining on board were detained until the criminal was given up. He was tried arid found guilty at the October term of the 3d district court in 1854, together with an accomplice. 37

Early in March 1854 William Young, in the employment of C. C. Terry at Alki, while looking for a land claim with a canoe and a crew of three Snohomish, was killed and robbed, two of the Indians being found with his clothing and other property in their possession. Suspecting themselves about to be arrested, they fled to Holme Harbor, Whidbey Island; whither they were pursued by the sheriff, T. S. Russell, of King County, with a posse of four men, who made the arrests, but were fired upon by the friends of the prisoners and four of their number wounded, one of whom, Charles Cherry, died soon after returning to Seattle. 38 Nine Indians, including one of the murderers, were killed, and the other one secured, who confessed not only the killing of Young, but also of one of his confederates in a quarrel over the spoil. This Indian was imprisoned for several months, but finally discharged.

About the same time the Clallams at Dungeness having killed Captain Jewell and his steward, Lieutenant Floyd Jones, 4th infantry, with a squad of men repaired to the disturbed district, where two Indians were killed and several slightly wounded in an encounter between the Clallams and the military and settlers. On hearing of these troubles, Governor Stevens made a visit to the lower Sound; but in the mean time the murderers, three in number, were arrested, and three others underwent flogging for theft. 39

In consequence of the affair at Holme Harbor, Major Larned, who took command of Fort Steilacoom in July previous, proceeded to Whidbey Island with a detachment of nine soldiers, to endeavor to restore peace to the settlement at that point. While returning in a government surf-boat, navigated by John Hamilton of Steilacoom, all were lost by the sudden upsetting of the craft in a squall off Port Madison, except two privates, who clung to the boat and drifted ashore near Seattle. 40

No Indian agents as yet having been commissioned for Washington, Governor Stevens, as superintendent of Indian affairs, appointed M. T. Simmons special agent for the Puget Sound district. Simmons entered upon his duties by publishing a request to all good citizens to aid in the suppression of liquor-selling to Indians, by informing him of every such infraction of the law which became known to them; by advising persons employing Indians to have a written contract witnessed by a white man; and by refraining from punishing suspected Indian criminals except upon certain proofs of their crimes. With this caution observed, he hoped to be able to preserve the peace. Soon after the appointment of Simmons west of the Cascade Mountains, Stevens appointed A. J. Bolan, member of the legislature from Clarke county, special agent for the district extending east of the Cascades to the Bitter Root Mountains, and W. H. Tappan, councilman from Clarke county, special agent for the Columbia River district.

In April 1854 the Snohomish voluntarily hanged two of their own people at Seattle for the murder of a white man at Lake Union, in July previous, and the most friendly relations seemed established in that quarter About the same time James Burt murdered an Indian of Fort Simpson, near Olympia, was tried and acquitted, but fled the territory to avoid the vengeance of the tribe. In the estimation of the public, the white man should have been punished, 41 and apprehensions of the consequences of this act were expressed in the Olympia, newspaper.

In the latter part of May ten large war canoes, containing several hundred northern Indians, appeared at Vancouver Island, and a party of eight coining on shore, shot Charles Bailey, an Englishman, whom they mistook for an American. Governor Douglas ordered out a force from the fort at Victoria, pursuing them to their canoes, two of which proceeded to Bellingham Bay, landing at the claim of a settler named Clayton, who, perceiving from their demeanor that hostilities were intended, fled to the woods, pursued by the Indians, and escaped to the house of Captain Battle, where some of the Lummi tribe were found and sent to alarm the settlements. Clayton, Battle, and five others, in order to avoid being taken should the enemy have found the trail of the fugitives, embarked in a canoe, and anchored off the house of Pattie, in readiness to escape by water should the Indians attack by land. Here they remained from Saturday afternoon to 10 o’clock Sunday night, when all went ashore except two, David Melville and George Brown, who were left to keep guard. During the night Richard Williams, one of the shore party, discharged his gun to clean it, the arm having been wet the day before. His fire was returned by a volley out of the darkness and from the water. At the sound of the firing, some friendly Indians came to the rescue, and the enemy was driven off. The two men in the boat were never seen again, but as their canoe was found on the beach the next morning, covered with blood, it was supposed that they were surprised while asleep and beheaded, as was customary with these northern Indians. The murderers then robbed several houses on Bellingham Bay and Whidbey Island, and disappeared. Secretary and acting governor Mason and Agent Simmons, on learning that armed northern Indians had appeared in the waters of Washington, immediately repaired to Fort Steilacoom, and with a small detachment of soldiers proceeded down the Sound to ascertain the condition of affairs in that quarter. Nothing, however, was effected be-yond making a display of there intention of the United States to punish crimes committed against its citizens, when able. Upon receiving advices from the Secretary, Governor Stevens called the attention of the war department to the inadequacy of the force stationed at Puget Sound, and the necessity for some means of transporting troops other than by canoes.

The absence of steam-vessels on the Sound made the communication of news slow and uncertain, as it also made the chance of succor in case of need nearly hopeless. The Fairy, which ran for a short time, had been withdrawn, and for the period of nine months nothing faster than a sailing vessel or canoe could be had to transport passengers or troops from point to point, while land travel north of Seattle was impracticable. At length, in September 1854, the steamer Major Tompkins, Captain James M. Hunt, owned by John H. Scranton, was brought from San Francisco and placed upon the Sound to ply regularly between Olympia, where a wharf had been erected by Edward Giddings, Jr, on the flat north of the town, 42 and Victoria, calling at the intermediate ports. Very soon afterward the custom-house was removed from Olympia to Port Townsend, and the revenue-cutter Jefferson Davis, Captain William C. Pease, arriving for service on the Sound, sensibly relieved the feeling of isolation of the inhabitants of the northern counties.

In October the murderers of Captain Jewell and Church escaped from Fort Steilacoom, and Acting Governor Mason offered a large reward for their re- apprehension. These Indians were retaken in December, when the Major Tompkins, with the revenue-cutter carrying troops in tow, proceeded to a camp of the Clallams on Hood Canal, to demand the surrender of the convicts. Already Simmons had secured Church’s murderer, but the tribe refused to give up the others. When the soldiers under Lieutenant Nugent landed, the savages fled, and the only result of this expedition was the destruction of their camp and winter supply of salmon. The cutter also fired some shots into the woods before leaving, by which five Clallams were reported to have been killed. On the return down the canal, Simmons succeeded in capturing a Clallam chief known as the Duke of York, 43 and detained him as a hostage for the surrender of the escaped convicts, who were finally delivered, and taken to Steilacoom. The Indians were terrified by the rapidity with which the Major Tompkins followed them, and the certainty with which they were overtaken in flight, and it was believed the moral effect of the fear inspired would be effectual to prevent crimes. To the chagrin of the white population and the relief of the Indians, the Major Tompkins was lost the night of the 10th of February, 1855, by being blown on the rocks at the entrance to Esquimalt Harbor, Vancouver Island, her passengers all escaping to land. Her place was filled soon after by the Water Lily, owned by C. C. Terry.

Governor Stevens returned to Olympia with his family 44 on the 1st of December, in time to be present at the opening of the legislature 45 on the 4th of that month.

In his message the governor referred to the Indian disturbances on the immigrant road to Oregon and Washington, 46 as well as the troubles on the lower part of the Sound, and the effect they were likely to have upon the immigration of the following years, 47 and again recommended the enrolment of the militia, before which an application to the secretary of war for arms and ammunition must fail, and expressed the hope that the people would give him their support in arranging “on a permanent basis the future of the Indians in the territory.” Feeling the necessity of this work, the governor very soon set about it, and concluded on the 26th of December a treaty with the several tribes at the head of the Sound. Three small reservations were made, as follows: an island opposite Skookum Bay, two sections of land on the Sound west of the meridian line, and an equal amount on the Puyallup River near its mouth. Under this treaty the Indians had the right to fish as usual, to pasture their horses on any unclaimed land, and to gather their food of berries and roots wherever they (lid not trespass upon enclosed ground, or to reside near the settlements provided they did nothing to make their presence objectionable. Between six and seven hundred signed the treaty, which, besides their annuities, gave them teachers, a farmer, mechanics, and a physician, and manifested their satisfaction. 48 This treaty was immediately ratified by the senate.

On the 22d of January 1854, a treaty was concluded with about 2,500 natives on the eastern shore of the Sound. The treaty was held at Point Elliott, near the mouth of Snohomish River. Speeches were made by Seattle, Patkanim, and other chiefs of influence, all expressive of friendship for the white people and pleasure at the treaty, and a reservation was agreed upon on the Lumimi River. Then followed a treaty with the tribes farther north, at which a thousand were present, who consented readily to the terms, the chiefs using the occasion to display their oratory, but in a friendly fashion. A reservation was selected about the head of Hood Canal. Soon afterward the Makahs of Cape Flattery and other tribes at the entrance to the straits were treated with; and lastly a council was held with those on the Chehalis River and the coast, the whole business being transacted in less than three months, and in the winter season, such was the energy with which the governor addressed himself to the duties of Indian superintendent. 49

But after a week of negotiation, in the latter case the council broke up without coming to any agreement on account of each of the fragments of tribes, five in number, desiring a separate reservation, to which Stevens refused his consent. 50

Having completed the labor of extinguishing Indian titles west of the Cascade Mountains, with the exception of the Cowlitz, Chinooks, Chehalis, and Queniults, who together numbered about eight hundred, Stevens next prepared to enter upon the same duties in eastern Washington. While on his surveying expedition, he had been at much pains to become acquainted with all the tribes upon his route within or bordering; upon his-district, and to prepare their minds for treaty- making. He had particularly commissioned James Doty, one of his assistants, who remained at Fort Benton in charge of the meteorological post at that place for a year, to inquire into all matters pertaining to the Indian tribes in that quarter, and who was made a special agent for that purpose. 51 Lieutenant Mullan, who was employed in the Flathead country for the same length of time, was instructed to give much attention to Indian affairs, and apparently gained a strong influence over them; and Lieutenant Saxton also remained some time with the Nez Perces in order to give and obtain information.

In October Mullan and Doty arrived, the first at Vancouver and the second at Olympia, and when Stevens returned a few weeks later from Washington City, they were ready to report in person. In January 1855 Doty was despatched with a small party east of the Cascade Mountains to make arrangements with the Yakimas, Walla Wallas, Nez Percé, and Palouses, for a grand council, which, by agreement with Superintendent Palmer of Oregon, was appointed for the 20th of May, Kamiakin, chief of the Yakimas, himself directing that the council should be held in the Walla Walla Valley, near the site of the present city of that name, because it was an ancient council-ground.

At the time and place agreed upon the council was held, and treaties signed by the chiefs of the Yakimas, Walla Wallas, Nez Perces, and Cayuses, the narrative of which is contained in another volume. 52 Several weeks were consumed at the treaty-grounds, and it was the middle of June before Stevens was ready to proceed to the Blackfoot country, where arrangements had been made for a treaty council in October. While en route every opportunity was used to cultivate confidential relations with the Indians, and treaties were entered into with the upper Pend d’Oreilles, Kootenais, and Flatheads. A delegation of the Nez Perces, under the special agency of William Craig of Lapwai, attended him to the Blackfoot council, where a treaty of peace was entered into between the Blackfoot nation and this tribe, and where a successful conference was held with this powerful and predatory people. 53 The news of the Blackfoot treaty was dispatched to Olympia by the governor’s special expressman, W. H. Pearson, who returning October 29th met Stevens’ party two days’ travel west of Fort Benton, on their way home with the intelligence that, so far from keeping their treaty obligations, the Yakimas, Walla Wallas, Cayuses, Palouses, and a part of the Nez Perces were at war with the white people, and that it would be impossible for him to reach Olympia through the Indian country, advices from army officers recommending him to go down the Missouri River, and return to Washington territory by the way of New York. Instead of taking this humiliating advice, Stevens at once determined to push forward at all hazards. Sending Doty back to Fort Benton for a large supply of ammunition, with additional arms and horses, he encamped his men to await Doty’s return, and on the 31st, with only A. H. Robie and a Delaware Indian interpreter, started to ride express to Bitter Root Valley, to communicate with Agent R. H. Lansdale, in charge of the Flatheads. At Fort Owen 54 he overtook the Nez Force delegation, whom he found informed of the war which had broken out in the Yakima country, and also that a portion of their own tribe were disaffected and some of them hostile, while all the other tribes who had been parties to the treaty of Walla Walla were undoubtedly so. However, after a conference, the whole party of fourteen, including the war-chiefs Looking Glass, Spotted Eagle, and Three Feathers, promised friendship, and agreed to accompany Stevens as a part of his escort, offering if he should go through the Nez Percé country to send a large party of young men with him to The Dalles. He halted but one day, and moved down to Hell Gate pass to wait for Doty, who overtook him on the 11th of November, and where he was detained until the 15th completing preparations for the contemplated march. He crossed the Bitter Root Mountains on the 20th, in three feet of snow, the horses of the train being one night without grass. When twenty-five miles from the Coeur d’Alene Mission, he again travelled in advance of the train, with only Pearson, Craig, and four of the Nez Perces.

Information had been brought to Stevens that it was the intention of the hostile tribes to cut off his return, and he had no means of knowing to what extent the Coeur d’Alenes and other tribes on his route had been influenced or brought into the combination for war. But judging it best to seem unconscious of danger, he did so, “throwing ourselves into the midst of the Indians with our rifles in one hand, and our arms outstretched on the other side, we tendered them both the sword and the olive-branch.” To the Nez Perces he had given instructions to entertain the C0eur d’Alenes with stories of the Blackfoot council, and talk of the advantages of the treaty which would relieve them in the future of the depredations to which they from time immemorial had been subjected by this people.

The plan succeeded. The Coeur d’Alenes, taken by surprise, met the governor and his party with a cordial welcome; but when the first involuntary pleasure of meeting was over, they began to remember what the emissaries of Kamiakin, who were but five days gone, had told them of him, their manner changed, and they seemed undecided whether to commit themselves to peace or war.

Without giving them time to retract, Stevens hastened on, as soon as his train had overtaken him to the Spokane country, where he had resolved to hold a council. Arrived at the place of Antoine Plant, 55 Indian runners were dispatched to the lower Spokanes, Pend d’Oreilles, and Colville Indians, and invitations sent to Angus McDonald at Fort Colville, and also to the Jesuit fathers Ravelli and Joset of the Colville and Coeur d’Alene missions, to bring them together in conference.

Several days elapsed before all arrived, and when they were met, it seemed doubtful if peace could be obtained. “I had there,” said Stevens in his official report, “one of the stormiest councils, for three days, that ever occurred in my whole Indian experience,” because he would not promise the Indians that the United States troops should not cross to the north side of the Snake River. “Of course,” says Father Joset, “the governor could not promise such a thing. He made several promises, but he evaded that question.” 56

But when the Indians had heard a complete refutation of the tales told them by the agents of Kamiakin, and been assured of protection so long as they remained friendly, they took heart and appeared satisfied; and Stevens conquered, as he had at the Walla Walla council, by force of personal will as well as argument, the chiefs ending by consulting him on all points as if he had been their father, and confiding to him all their vexations and anxieties.

But there was another danger to be encountered. The Spokanes insisted that the Nez Perces were hostile, though Stevens had hitherto had entire confidence in their good faith. Being put upon his guard when he was rejoined by the party from the Blackfoot council under Looking Glass, he set his interpreter to spy upon this chief; who was at length overheard explaining to a Spokane chief a plan to entrap the treaty-maker when he should arrive in the Nez Perce country, and advising the Spokanes to a similar course. Says Stevens: “I never communicated to Looking Glass my knowledge of his plans, but knowing them, I knew how to meet them in council. I also knew how to meet them in his own country, and it gave me no difficulty.” 57

The Spokanes offered to escort him through the country of the “hostile Nez Percé,” but Stevens declined, to show that he had no favors to ask, as well as to lessen the danger of collusion between Looking Glass and the Spokanes. He dispatched Craig with a part of the Nez Percé delegation to Lapwai in advance, to invite their people to and arrange for holding a council, as also to procure him an escort to The Dalles. To enlarge his party of white men, he organized a battalion of miners and others waiting to get through the hostile country, called the Stevens Guards and Spokane Invincibles, by which means he added twenty men to his escort who wished to go to The Dalles. When all were mustered in he had a company of fifty. For these he procured the best horses in the country, reducing every pack to eighty pounds, in order that he might fight or fly 58 as occasion required; and thus equipped, set out to encounter, for aught he knew, the combined war force of the confederated tribes. But a forced march for four days in rain and snow brought him to Lapwai, where Craig was awaiting him, with the Indians prepared for a council, which was immediately called. 59

In the midst of it an Indian express arrived from Walla Walla with the news of four days’ fighting and the death of Peupeumoxmox. It had been previously agreed that a large force of Nez Perces should accompany Stevens to The Dalles, but the knowledge of the occupation of the country by the Oregon troops rendered this unnecessary, and the next day, accompanied by sixty-nine well-armed Nez Force volunteers, in addition to the Stevens Guards, he set out for The Dalles by the way of the seat of war.



Bancroft, Hubert H. Bancroft Works, Volume 31, History Of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, 1845-1889. San Francisco: The History Company. 1890.

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