Copyright 2000 - 2003 - Janine M. Bork
This page is part of the Union County, OR AGHP
Douglas and Jackson Counties Created - First Election - First Court in the Southern District - Early Merchants - Pioneer Lawyers and Doctors - Pony Expresses and Territorial Roads - U.S. Mail Route - Gold Discovered at Rogue River - Gaines' Futile Treaty - Marauding Indians - Volunteers Called Out - War with the Savages - Settlers Favor a Treaty - Captain Lamerick Banqueted - Heroism of the Pioneers - The Government's Neglect of Settlers and Volunteers - Protecting and Relieving Immigrants - Indian Ambuscades and Savage Murders - White Women and Children Butchered - The Settlers to the Rescue - Captain Ben Wright Wreaks Revenge - Disaster at Port Orford - Prosperity on the Umpqua - A Hard Winter.
THE territorial legislature, at the session of 1851-52, on the 7th of January, 1852, passed an act organizing the county of Douglas, defining its boundaries as follows: Beginning at the mouth of Calapooia creek, thence following the main fork of said creek to its source, thence due east to the summit of the Cascade range of mountains, thence due south to the summit of the dividing ridge separating the waters of Rogue river from the waters of the Umpqua, thence westerly along the summit of said ridge to the summit of the Coast Range of mountains separating the waters of Coquille and Coos rivers from the Umpqua, thence northerly along the summit of said Coast Range to a point where the south line of Umpqua county crosses said range, thence due east along the south line of Umpqua county to the place of beginning. The election precincts were established at Reason Reed's, the town of Winchester, the house of Joseph Knott, near the cañon, and at the house of Joseph Roberts, in the South Umpqua valley. By act of January 17, 1852, the county seat of Douglas county was fixed at the town of Winchester.
On the 9th of January, an act was passed creating the county of Jackson. The boundaries were described as beginning at the southwest corner of Umpqua county, thence due east to the northwest corner of douglas county, thence southerly along the western boundary of Douglas county to the southeast corner, thereof, thence in a southeasterly direction to the eastern extremity of Rogue river valley, thence due south to the boundary line between Oregon and California, thence west to the Pacific, thence northerly along the coast to the place of beginning. Election precincts were established at Port Orford, R.P. Daniels' store on Cañon creek, Long's ferry on Rogue river near the mouth of Applegate creek, and at Willow Springs in Rogue river valley.
The creation of this county and the establishment of voting precincts exhibited a degree of ignorance of its topography, which evidently proves that no member of the legislature had ever been in that section of the country. The district between Port Orford, on the coast, and Cañon creek, where placers had been recently discovered, was an unknown region; and the miners on Josephine and Cañon creeks had no more knowledge
of the existence of a settlement at Port Orford than the settlers of the latter had of the discovery of mines in the interior. The legislators, however, builded better than they knew. The discovery of the mines on Jackson creek and Rogue river in the same year rendered the creation of a body politic a great boon, as it relieved the miners and settlers from the necessity of executing their own laws.
The legislature at the same session granted one senator to the counties of Umpqua, Douglas and jackson, and one representative each to the counties of Douglas and Jackson. It also passed an act uniting Umpqua, Douglas and Jackson counties in one judicial district, the court to be held in Umpqua county on the fourth Mondays of March and September.
The first election in Douglas county resulted in the selection of E.J. Curtis for the legislature; Solomon Fitzhugh, Probate Judge; Thomas Smith, Wm. T. Perry and John Danford, County Commissioners; Fleming R. Hill, Sheriff; A.R. Flint, Clerk; C.W. Smith, Assessor; and Caleb Grover, Coroner. The total vote was 163. At the election in Jackson county, John R. Hardin was elected Representative; L.A. Rice, Probate Judge; James Cluggage, Thomas Smith and Davis Evans, County Commissioners; Columbus Sims, County Clerk; W.W. Fowler, Treasurer; and John Walker, Coroner. Umpqua county election Addison C. Gibbs to the legislature; while Levi Scott, of Umpqua county, was elected Councilman for the district.
Although county officers were elected in all the counties, in none of them was the machinery set in motion until the following year. The first court for the southern district was held at the house of Jesse Applegate, at Yoncalla, in Umpqua county, in accordance with the statue, on Monday, March 22, 1852. Hon. O.C. Pratt, Judge; J.W. Perit Huntington, Deputy Marshal; Jesse Applegate, Clerk pro tem (S.F. Chadwick, the Clerk, being absent); and R.P. Boise, Esq., District Attorney pro tem. Twenty-one grand jurors were empaneled, with Lindsey Applegate as foreman. On the 24th, the grand jury reported that they had no business before them; and, as there was no civil business, the court adjourned.
The material prosperity of the Umpqua valley was very much increased during this year. Nearly every valley in the two counties was occupied by one or more settlers, many of whom were accompanied by their families, who had been able to reap a crop the previous harvest. At Winchester, the firm of Martin & Barnes had established a general merchandise store. Fendel Sutherlin advertised flour at fifteen dollars per hundred, and dry goods, etc., at his store on Deer creek, on the Donation claim of William T. Perry. Smith and Reed had erected a flouring mill on the North Umpqua, just above Winchester. Aaron Rose kept a hotel at Roseburg, in a frame building made of split boards; and there were many similar stopping places on the road to the mines, especially at the north and south end of the Umpqua cañon, Jump-off-Joe creek, Grave creek and the three ferries on the Rogue river.
The trade to the gold mines,
and the saving in freight thereto from the Umpqua river, led to the establishment
of many commercial houses at Scottsburg, the head of navigation. In 1852,
the houses that dealt in general merchandise in Upper Scottsburg were:
Duncan McTavish; George L. Snelling; Merritt, Oppenheimer & Co.; Wadsworth,
Peter & Ladd; R.E. Stratton; Dunlap & Co.; Brown, Dunn & Co.,
who also owned a pack train conveying supplies to the mines; and Bradbury
& Co. Dr. L.S. Thompson opened the pioneer drug store, and also owned
a pack train. Hirstel & Co. dealt in tobacco and cigars. Levi, Kent
& Co. established a tannery, and David Thompson a
harness shop. William Craize kept the hotel. In Lower Scottsburg, engaged in general merchandise, were A. German & Geo. Haynes; Chadwick, Hinsdale & Co.; Allen, McKinlay & Co., who brought the steamer Washington from the Columbia river as a transfer boat to run from the mouth of the river to Scottsburg; Burns & Wood; and Mr. Hogan, J.D. May kept the hotel. The legal profession was well represented by Stephen F. Chadwick, Addison C. Gibbs and Mr. Hartley. Hartley remained but a short time; and the two first-mentioned have filled the position of governor of the State of Oregon with credit to the state and themselves. The medical profession was represented by Drs. E.R. Fiske, J.W. Drew, E.P. Drew, L.S. Thompson and Theo. Dagan, all of whom served as surgeons in the Indian war of 1855-56, and also by Dr. Payne and Dr. Daniel Wells.
In addition to the trade from Scottsburg, pack trains were regularly making trips from the Willamette to the mines, with occasionally a wagon with an ox-team. In February, T'Vault & Co. advertised an express to run between Winchester and Shasta-Butte City (Yreka), touching at Rogue river, Smith river, Josephine creek, Klamath and Humbug creek, every two weeks. Soon after Crouch & McLaine started a similar express from Portland to Shasta and Humbug cities. The legislature had not been unmindful of the necessity of keeping up the communication between the Willamette valley and the southern portion of the territory, and on February 4, 1852, passed an act for a territorial road from Marysville (Corvallis) to Winchester; and Samuel Stars, George F. Hubert and Addison R. Flint were named as commissioners to locate such road. On January 19, 1852, an act was passed for a similar road from Winchester to the south line of the territory at or near Shasta-Butte City (Yreka). The commissioners named were Joseph W. Drew, Samuel Culver and R.P. Daniels. On the 12th of July, N. Coe, Special Agent, advertised for bids for carrying the United States mail from Cañonville, Douglas county, to Yreka, California, one trip in two weeks, but noted that proposals for a weekly service would be considered.
The principal cause of this commercial
activity was the discovery of gold in the Rogue river valley. In 1851,
the miners, coming from the mines at Yreka on their way to Josephine creek,
had discovered gold in several portions of the valley, but not in sufficient
quantities to detain them from the richer placers of Illinois river; but
in January, 1852, James Cluggage and James Poole discovered, in Rich gulch,
where the town of Jacksonville now stands, placers of extraordinary richness.
This discovery at once caused a rush of miners to the valley; and as early
as February there were about five hundred men prospecting Rich gulch and
Jackson creek. This number was constantly increased during the year; and
further discoveries were made on Rogue river and in different sections
of the surrounding country. The climate and soil of the Rogue river valley,
as well as the beauty of the surrounding mountain scenery, offered attractions
to the agriculturist that were almost irresistible; and many immigrants,
who started for the Willamette valley by the southern route, left it with
regret on account of the hostile character of the Indians. In the fall
of 1851, N.C. Dean took up his claim at the Willow Springs, a favorite
camping-place on the Oregon and California trail. Later, Moses Hopwood
settled near A.A. Skinner's place on Bear creek; captain Thomas Smith,
Patrick Dunn and Fred Alberding settled near the present site of Ashland;
while Barrow, Russel and Gibbs took up the Mountain House claim at the
foot of the Siskiyou Mountains; and several other settlers selected homes
in the neighborhood of the first settlers.
Emboldened by the presence of the large number of miners in the country, a large number of immigrants, several of them having their families, selected Donation claims in different parts of the valley during the year 1852. As an evidence of the prosperity of the country, Samuel Culver and T. Thompson, on January 2, 1852, advertised for pasturage for stock for miners and travelers; and on the 15th of June, Dagan & Co. advertised an express, to connect with Adams & Co's Express at Portland, with agencies at all the principal towns and camps in the Umpqua Rogue river and Shasta mines.
The Indians, suffering from the punishment inflicted by Major Kearney in 1851, were for a time deterred from any act of open hostility; but, after having learned that the treaty made with Governor Gaines was of no binding force and no profit to them, they availed themselves of every opportunity to waylay, rob and murder traveling parties, whenever they could dispose of their bodies in such a manner as to avoid discovery. Many a small party going to the mines from the Willamette valley, or returning thereto, were never heard from, whose loss may undoubtedly be attributed to the savages.
Later in the fall of 1851, a party consisting of Bowen, Moffitt and Jones, with an employé named Boney Evans, who were taking a drove of hogs from the Willamette to Yreka, were attacked by the Indians about daybreak in their camp on Wagner creek, about one-half mile from the present townsite of Talent. Moffitt and Evans were wounded; but Bowen escaped and reached a party encamped at the spring near where the Eagle mill now stands. This party consisted of Joseph Goodwin, Mr. Farmer, each with a wagon and team, Henry Klippel, the Fox brothers and Quiner. When Bowen arrived, they had not yet broken camp; but they immediately rushed to the relief of the party, taking one wagon for the wounded. On their way, they met the balance of the party. Moffitt and Evans were placed in the wagon, the hogs were gathered, and the whole party proceeded south on their way to Yreka. The next day Moffitt died, and was buried on the Siskiyou Mountain. The murderers were never captured.
In the spring of 1852, the Indians murdered a white man in Shasta valley; and about the first of June they became very saucy and menaced the settlers in Rogue river valley; and suddenly all disappeared from the settlements, a fact which indicated that a crisis was at hand.
General Jo Lane, who was then the delegate in Congress from Oregon, insisted upon the establishment of a military post in Rogue river valley, in which demand he was fortified by the report of Major Kearney, heretofore cited, as well as his own experience. At that time, the expense of sending troops overland from San Francisco was excessive; and the temptation to desertion through the mining region was so great that the commanding officer of the department made pretense of obeying his orders by sending troops to Port Orford, where they were quite as efficient for the purpose of controlling the savage warriors of Rogue river valley as if they had remained at the headquarters at Benicia. The result of this mismanagement is shown by the events that followed. In the early part of July, Geo. H. Ambrose, who had taken a Donation claim where Gold Hill station now is, and who was afterwards Indian agent, was so annoyed by the Indians in various ways, that he, with other neighboring settlers, appealed to the miners for protection.
In response to this petition,
John K. Lamerick called for volunteers; and about eighty men immediately
responded, and went to Ambrose's on the 16th of July. Shortly thereafter
a party from Shasta valley, under the command of Elijah Steele, arrived
in search of two Indian murderers, who were supposed to be secreted by
the Rogue river
band. A.A. Skinner, the Indian agent, knowing that an outbreak was imminent, strained every nerve to patch up a peace, which the troops gave him every opportunity to do. It was finally decided to have a peace talk with the chiefs and Indians on Big Bar, Lamerick's and Steele's forces to be present. Lamerick's forces moved up to the bar, where they found Steele's men already on the ground. About ten o'clock in the morning, an attempt was made to have a peace talk at the cabin on the bar. Skinner, Martin Angell, Chief Jo and others were endeavoring to get the Indians to the cabin for that purpose, all apparently acting in good faith. John Calvin, one of Steele's men, was also bringing a squad of Indians down the bar towards the cabin. One of these held back and refused to go. Calvin insisted and pushed him forward, when he turned and strung his bow in a menacing manner, at which Calvin shot him. Then the fight began, the Indians being all armed. There was no premeditation on the part of any one; but, after the firing of Calvin's gun, it was utterly impossible to check it. Chief Jo, Jim and Mary, Jim's wife, the daughter of Jo, was not fifty yards from the place where the firing commenced. they made no attempt to escape, and consequently were not injured nor molested; but, on the contrary, they were protected and taken to a place of safety. Chief Sam led the savages.
After the fight, a portion of Lamerick's men went down the river to Evan's ferry, where they had a slight skirmish with the Indians. From this place they went to Evans creek, where they attacked and routed a large Indian camp. The next day James lackey, with a Klikitat Indian, located the hostiles on the north side of Rogue river, in what was then called "the Horseshoe," formed by two spurs of the lower Table Rock making into the river. It was at once decided to attack them at daylight next morning; and for this purpose it was arranged that Steele's men, with some of the settlers, should pass through the Willow Spring gap, thence east, crossing Rogue river about one mile above the mouth of Bear creek, at the first ford above Table Rock; and another party was sent over the Blackwell to remain on the north side of the river directly opposite to Sam's camp. Lamerick, with fifty men, crossed the river at midnight near the battle-ground of the day before, and moved up the river until he struck Sam's creek. From this point, Lieutenant Humphrey, with twenty-five men, was sent to take a position on the lower Table Rock to cut off the retreat of the Indians in that direction. Lamerick, with the remnant of about twenty-five men, moved up the north side of the river. It was understood that all the separate commands were to be at their appointed place by daylight. Lamerick's command arrived within a mile of Sam's camp fully an hour before daylight, where they dismounted and allowed their horses to graze. While here one of the picket guard fired his gun, which proved to be a false alarm; but at early dawn they were ordered forward. When about six hundred yards from Sam's camp, Lamerick, Lackey and Klippel, who were in advance, met an Indian coming towards them on the trail. Lackey fired at and missed him, when the company rode rapidly forward and took position on a little hill about one hundred and fifty yards in front of Sam's camp. Lamerick's force was on time, as was also the party on the south side of the river, opposite the Indian camp.
While waiting for the supports
to come down the river, and to learn whether Lieutenant Humphrey had succeeded
in getting onto the rock, an Indian ran the gauntlet and gained the rock,
from which point for an hour he could be heard at intervals talking to
the Indians below. All at once the Indians decamped, and in a few minutes
Humphrey's command appeared on the top of Table Rock. Immediately upon
the appearance of
Humphrey's forces, the Indians sent out two squaws, who came half-way between their camp and Lamerick's line, and said that Sam wanted two white men to come to him without arms and have a peace talk, or "close wawa." Lamerick refused to entertain the proposition. At this time, some of the Indians made a break to cross the river and get away, but were promptly checked by a volley from the troops on the south side. After waiting two or three hours longer, a detachment of about forty men made their appearance coming down the river. By this time the Indians became frantic in their appeals for a treaty. Lamerick was making preparations to attack; but the late arrivals, who were mostly composed of the farmers, seemed inclined to a treaty, in fact, were strong advocates of peace, claiming that the defenseless condition of their homes would place them at the mercy of the marauding savages. Lamerick, speaking for his company, said to them: "We came here at your earnest request. We have the Indians corralled and demoralized, and, with your help, can destroy them in one hour, which lesson will be the best guaranty of the safety of the valley." After considerable talk, it was finally decided to leave it to a vote as to whether a treaty should be made; and the vote resulted in favor of a treaty, the farmers voting unanimously for it, while Lamerick and his men did not vote.
In accordance with this decision, a treaty, so-called, was made and signed by which the Rogue river Indians would have no communication with the Shastas, who had been in the habit of stealing horses and property in Shasta valley, and seeking protection with the Rogue rivers; that they should expect no more presents from the "Boston Tyee," the President of the United States, unless he wanted to give them (this referred to the demand of the Indians for the breach of the Gaines treaty); that the Whites should have the right to settle where they pleased and be secure and protected by their chiefs and counselors in their person and property; that al cattle in the valley belonging to the Whites should be safe from molestations from the Indians; that, if any property of any kind or description belonging to the Whites was stolen or destroyed by the Indians, and Sam, the chief, did not produce it in a given time, he was to be surrendered to the Whites to do with him as they thought fit, even to the taking off of his head. In fact, Sam would have promised anything while Lamerick had him "bottled up," and his life was worth only an hour's purchase.
The making of this treaty was a very grave mistake. The farmers stated their case in the strongest light, but were unacquainted with the character of the Indians with whom they had to deal. The Rogue river Indians were cunning, treacherous and cruel, and were never known to spare the white man when they had the advantage. Captain Lamerick, with his forces, had completely outgeneraled Sam, the war chief; and he and his warriors were entirely at his mercy. Had the farmers consented to the plans of Captain Lamerick, and had the hostiles been visited with the condign punishment they justly deserved, the supremacy of the Whites would have been established, without the aid of government troops; and the wars of 1853 and 1855 would never have occurred.
Captain Lamerick, on this occasion,
proved himself not only a brave soldier, but an officer with sound judgment
and a clear head, all of which he maintained in his subsequent conflicts
with the Indians. Soon after the peace was made, on July 25th Captain Lamerick
and his company were tendered a public dinner at Jacksonville by the citizens
of the valley. There were present twenty-two ladies and about one hundred
soldiers and citizens. D.M. Kinney, on behalf of the citizens of the valley,
tendered thanks to Captain Lamerick
and his men for services performed, to which the captain responded in fitting terms. After which the following letter was read by the chairman:
Indian Agency, Sunday Morning, July 25, 1852.
"Gentlemen: It is with extreme regret that, in consequence of the state of my health and other circumstances beyond my control, I am under the necessity of declining your polite invitation to be present at the public dinner tendered to Captain Lamerick and his company of volunteers, who, by their energy, perseverance and gallantry, have so speedily and successfully terminated the hostilities in which we were recently engaged with the warlike and wily savages of this valley. And though I cannot be present, permit me through you to assure Captain Lamerick and his brave companions-in-arms, of my sympathy with patriotism and valor wherever exhibited. And allow me to propose the following sentiment: 'The citizens and miners of Rogue river valley: Quick to discover and prompt to repel danger: Worthy descendants of the heroes and patriots of '76.'
"Messrs. Fowler, Kinney and Miller, Co."
After many other toasts had been responded to, the dinner closed with an original ditty, composed and sung by Esquire W.H. Appler, which will be remembered by the pioneers present as long as they live. Space will not permit its publication; but the favorite verse began with the line "Table Rock is a pretty elevation," while the chorus was, "Rise, rise, ye Oregons, rise."
The loss of the Indians in the campaign was thirty warriors killed. On the side of the Whites, James Lackey was slightly, and a Klikitat Indian seriously, wounded. The effect was to establish the supremacy of the Whites, and to secure the safety of settlers and travelers for one year at least. It is not creditable to the United States government that the expense of Lamerick's and Steele's commands, amounting to several thousand dollars, was never paid.
The fact of this campaign, and the indorsement of the Indian agent, have been thus particularly described, for the reason that some writers, entirely ignorant of the situation, have grossly misrepresented the pioneers of Southern Oregon, and especially those of the Rogue river valley. Some have gone so far as to represent the majority of them as desperadoes, whose chief delight was in the slaughter of the Indians, regardless of age or sex. The exercise of a little common sense would show the absurdity of such a charge. The settlers were devoted to improving their claims and providing homes for their families, while the miners were engaged in a very lucrative occupation, in which a competency could be secured only by unremitted labor and attention. It is true that they were brave and gallant, as only such had the hardihood to endure the perils and hardships to be encountered to reach this "Promised Land." Many of these pioneers are still living, most of whom are the leading citizens of Oregon, Washington and California. It is also true, that whenever danger threatened any portion of the new community, all were ready to rush to its defense, without regard to personal danger or pecuniary loss.
On these too-frequent occasions,
there were men who, by their military ability and penetrating knowledge
of Indian character, were quickly recognized as leaders. among these were
General Jo Lane, Colonel John E. ross, Captain J.K. Lamerick, Captain Ben
Wright and several others whose names will subsequently appear. These men
their services neither for glory nor money, but to secure to their beloved country the benefits of a christian civilization. In regard to the charge that the Indians were murdered for recreation, it is only necessary to say, that only those who never met these treacherous and implacable savages upon the warpath have given that designation to subduing the Indians.
Certain humanitarians contend that, as the Indians were deprived of their lands, they had a right to defend their property. The Congress of the United States, by act of September 27, 1850, commonly known as the "Donation Act," gave to any settler in Oregon, who would reside upon and cultivate the same, a certain quantity of land. It was not the fault of the settler that his title was not perfect; but it was a crying shame that the general government neglected to protect the settlers, whom by so large a bounty it had induced to build up a state. Not only did the government fail to provide troops for their protection, but has since failed to repay to the settlers the expense of defending themselves. The protection of the immigrants over the southern route, through the Piute and Modoc tribes of Indians, in what is known as the Lake country, had heretofore devolved upon the people of the Willamette valley; but the settlement of Jackson county imposed upon the citizens of that section the duty of protecting the incoming immigration of this year. The people of Jackson county were in perfect accord with those on the south side of the Siskiyou Mountains, as their interests were identical.
In the summer of 1852, a letter was received at Yreka from one of the incoming immigrants, stating that great suffering would ensue unless the train was supplied with provisions. Immediately upon the receipt of this information, a supply train was fitted out by the citizens of Yreka and committed to a company commanded by Charles McDermit, who at once proceeded to Lost river, at the point where the trail from Yreka met the Applegate trail to Southern Oregon. After passing Tule Lake, the company met a party of immigrants with a pack train bound for Yreka. Captain McDermit having seen no hostile Indians on his way, simply gave instructions as to the route, and proceeded to relieve the wagon trains. When the packers reached a narrow pass on the north side of Tule Lake, since named Bloody Point, they fell into an ambuscade of the Modoc Indians; and all were killed except a man by the name of Coffin, who cut the pack off a horse, and, mounting it, succeeded in reaching Yreka, where he gave the alarm. Ben Wright was sent for at once, and quickly organized a company of about thirty men, well supplied with horses, arms and provisions, who lost no time in proceeding to the scene of the massacre.
The news of the slaughter of
the pack-train party was received in Jacksonville in the evening; and the
next morning a company of thirty men, under the command of Captain John
E. Ross, left for the protection of the immigrants. Captain McDermit, entirely
ignorant of the events taking place behind him, continued to advance, meeting
the first wagon train at Black Rock, with which he sent three men to show
the route and select camping places. Upon reaching the scene of the late
murder, the three guides rode without suspicion into the same ambuscade,
and were killed. The men of the train, which had been delayed by accident,
hearing the firing, made a barricade of their wagons, and kept the Indians
at bay until the arrival of Ben Wright and his company. Wright, upon seeing
the situation, suddenly charged upon the Indians, who fled and attempted
to reach their boats, but were intercepted by the volunteers, who, riding
through the tules, killed them without mercy. The number of Indians
killed was about forty. Captain Ross, with his
company, arrived soon after; and several days were spent in a search for the bodies of the murdered immigrant. Twenty-two bodies were found and buried by Wright's company. Captain Ross buried fourteen, among whom were several women and children, all of whom had been mutilated beyond recognition. Captain Ross advanced to meet the immigrants, and detailed a guard for each train until it was beyond danger, the company returning home with the last of the immigration. Captain Wright, with a part of his command, returned to Yreka for supplies, being determined to inflict signal punishment upon the treacherous murderers.
Major Fitzgerald, with a company of U.S. dragoons, who had been ordered to assist in the punishment of the Indians, rendered signal service, not only in protecting the immigrants, but in forcing the Indians to take refuge upon an island in Tule Lake. After the immigrant trains ahd all passed, the major returned to his quarters at Fort Jones, near Yreka. When Wright returned with supplies to his camp on Lost river, he was fully prepared to meet the savages with their own tactics. He had with im, and devoted to his service, two Indians named Charley and Enos. He had also secured the services of five Shastas, who were at war with the Modocs, and a Modoc squaw named Mary, who had been sent into Yreka as a spy, but who forgot her allegiance to her tribe. Upon reaching his camp on Lost river, Captain Wright secured a boat to keep guard over the island, while the Shastas, under the direction of Mary, found and destroyed all their winter store of provisions, which were cached near the borders of the lake. When their winter supplies were gone, this being about the first of November, 1852, the Modocs, for the first time, offered to make peace. Wright accepted their offer, and invited them to come to his camp for a feast. About fifty warriors, with their squaws, accepted the invitation, which they could not well refuse, as they were on the border of starvation. At this time, Lost river was very low, while above the river bottom was a terrace, upon which Wright's company bivouaced. Upon the river bottom the Indians set their lodges; and it was on this grassy plain that the Whites cooked and feasted with the Indians, both parties leaving their arms in camp.
It was Wright's object to obtain the valuables stolen from the murdered immigrants, and also to secure the chiefs, Sconchin and Curley-headed Doctor, as hostages for peace in the future; but Sconchin was too wily a rascal to be caught in this way. He, while pretending to consider the matter, formed a plan to surprise and slaughter the Whites. Wright, having been informed of this treachery through his Indians, sent six of his men across Lost river to prevent the retreat of the Indians in that direction, and then attacked them as they were scattered around their camp-fires. None of the Indians escaped except the chiefs, Sconchin and Curley-headed Doctor, who were supposed to have left before the attack was made. Wright had nineteen men, including the two Indians. He had three men severely wounded, Isaac Sandback, Poland and Brown. The loss of the Indians was forty-seven warriors. Captain Wright has been accused of treachery and violation of the laws of civilized warfare; but no apology is necessary for the men who had lately buried the mutilated bodies of murdered helpless women and children; and the taking of an adequate revenge upon these implacable savages was a lesson deserved and imperative. Upon their return to Yreka, Captain Wright and his company were received with honors which they richly deserved.
Upon the coast, the new settlement
at Port Orford did not meet with the success its founders anticipated,
which chiefly depended upon finding a road or a trail directly to the mines.
Attempts were made by Lieutenants Stoneman and Williamson, of the U.S.
Engineers, during this year, to find such a route; but they only succeeded in reaching the Big Bend of Rogue river, from which point it was reported that a good road could be found "through the broad and handsome valleys of Rogue river." The fact is, that from this point to the old Oregon and California wagon road, the valley of the river is a succession of almost inaccessible mountains. Colonel T'Vault reported in February that Grave creek, which is a tributary of Rogue river, emptied into the Coquille, thus affording an easy grade to Vannoy's ferry, within a distance of ninety miles. The topography of this rugged country was at that time entirely unknown to the Whites; and it was not until 1856 that a feasible route from the bend by the way of the valley of Illinois river was accidentally discovered by Captain A.J. Smith, too late to be of any commercial advantage to Port Orford.
An additional drawback to the success of the venture was the loss of Captain Tichnor's steamer Sea Gull on the 26th of February, 1852, in Humboldt Bay; all the passengers being saved. The regular mail steamers from San Francisco to Portland refused to stop at Port Orford, as they were not pecuniarily interested in the townsite, which added much to the difficulty of carrying on trade at that point. Captain Tichnor, with his wife and family, arrived and settled on his Donation claim on the 9th day of May. On the 2d of January, 1852, the three-masted government schooner Captain Lincoln left San Francisco with troops and provisions for Port Orford. She is reported to have sprung a leak shortly after leaving port; and, after repeated attempts to reach Port Orford, the captain was compelled to run her ashore eighteen miles south of the mouth of the Umpqua. Fortunately, no lives were lost; and the cargo was all saved in a damaged condition. Lieutenant Stanton, who was in command of the troops camped upon the beach at the scene of the wreck, detailed a party to seek a trail to Port Orford; but it soon returned with the report that such a route was impracticable, on account of the steep and rugged hills that flanked the coast, while the truth was that there was an almost level wagon road from the camp to Port Orford, the only obstruction being in the crossing of the rivers. On the 18th of May, the schooner Nassau took the cargo of the Captain Lincoln to San Francisco, whence the detachment reached Port Orford without difficulty. During the stay of Lieutenant Stanton on the coast near Coos river, he had several difficulties with the Indians, which he promptly suppressed by punishing several of the ringleaders, one of whom escaped with irons on him and was never heard from.
While Port Orford was under a cloud, the seaports on the Umpqua river were rapidly increasing their trade, especially the town of Scottsburg, by reason not only of the increase of settlers in the counties of Umpqua and Douglas, but by the discovery of the new mines in Jackson county. There is one incident that occurred on the river that is worthy to be recorded, as it goes to contradict, the saying "of the Federal officers, few die and none resign." On the 21st of December, 1852, Collins Wilson, Collector of Customs at the mouth of the Umpqua, tendered his resignation to Secretary Corwin, by whom he had been appointed. The surprise occasioned by such action is somewhat lessened by the reasons he gave therefor. In his letter he says that he had to do his own cooking and washing, cut his own firewood, and board vessels by himself; that he had lived alone for many months, with no one within six miles of him; and, besides which, he had received no pay. His resignation was accepted. A.C. Gibbs was appointed his successor; and the office was removed to more hospitable quarters at Gardiner.
The winter of 1852 was a very
severe one, not probably as severe as the winter of 1850, but certainly
the worst that had been experienced since white men had settled in
Southern Oregon. The mountains of California, north of
Redding, were so blockaded by snow as to prevent the passage of pack trains
to the mines in Northern California. The people of Jackson county were
dependent entirely upon the supplies brought from the Willamette or Scottsburg;
and, when the unexpected storm came upon them, the supply of provisions
was entirely inadequate. Snow fell at Jacksonville to the depth of three
feet, and lay upon the ground for more than four weeks; while, for a long
time after the snow disappeared, high water offered an equal obstruction
to travel. During this time, the citizens and miners suffered severely.
The supply of flour was soon exhausted; and many persons lived on "beans
straight" for the whole period. Salt was also extremely scarce, and was
issued only to the sick, in about the same quantities that the physician
gives quinine to his patients in malarious countries. Starving cattle,
horses and mules were killed for the relief of the suffering people. The
first relief was furnished by B.F. Dowell, who brought into Jacksonville
a pack train loaded with flour, after surmounting obstacles that few had
the hardihood to undertake. The people of the Umpqua valley were better
provided with wheat and flour. The storm was not so severe in that section;
and their principal suffering was caused by the increased prices of the
necessaries of life.