Copyright 2000 - 2003 - Janine M. Bork
This page is part of the Union County, OR AGHP
Mild Weather and Prosperous Times - A New Territory Projected. - Conventions Held - The Oregon Legislature - How Roseburg Became the County Seat - Milling Industries - Gold on the Seashore - The First Coal from Coos Bay - Disastrous Navigation - First Newspaper in Southern Oregon - First Term of Court at Empire City - Protection of Immigrants - Captain Walker's Volunteer Company - Serious Engagement with the Indians - Repulsed by the Savages - Patriotism of the Volunteers.
This year was one of universal prosperity and progress in Southern Oregon. The winter of 1853-54 was very mild, the farmers were enabled to keep their plows running during the whole winter, the mining interests were prospering, all fear of Indian difficulties were allayed, and the rapid development of the country seemed assured. In the fall of 1853, Judge M.P. Deady, who had been assigned to the southern district, was, by a singular mistake removed, and O.B. McFadden, of Pennsylvania, appointed in his stead. This change was very distasteful to the people of the district, who, without distinction of party, united in a vigorous protest against it. Judge Deady was, however, reinstated in January, 1854, and McFadden appointed District Judge of Washington Territory.
In the early part of the year of 1854, a vigorous movement was made in Southern Oregon and Northern California for the creation of a new territory, to contain that portion of Oregon south of the Calapooia Mountains, and all that portion of California north of Redding Springs. The matter had been much discussed; but the first call for a convention was issued by the Mountain Herald, of Yreka, California, on December 30, 1853. In pursuance of that call, a large number of citizens of Jackson county convened at the Robinson House, in Jacksonville, on January 7, 1854, to consider the propriety of, and to devise means for, organizing the new territory. Sam Culver was chosen President, and T. McPatton, Secretary. A committee of five was appointed to draft a memorial to the Legislative Assembly of Oregon, and to select ten delegates to the general convention to be held in Jacksonville, Oregon, on January 25, 1854. The committee on memorial consisted of Dr. Jesse Robinson, W.W. Fowler, L.F. Mosher, T. McF. Patton and S.C. Graves. The committee reported a memorial, which was unanimously adopted. A full delegation was selected for the general convention. This convention assembled at the Robinson House, in Jacksonville, Oregon, on January 25, 1854. The delegates present were: From Siskiyou county, California, Elyah Steele, C.N. Thornburg, E.J. Carter, H.G. Farris, E. Moore, O. Wheelock and J. Darrough; from Jackson county, Oregon, L.F. Mosher, Richard Dugan, John E. Ross, C. Sims, T. McF. Patton, Saml. Culver, D.M. Kenney, Chas. S. Drew, Martin Angell and Jesse Robinsons; from Coos county,
Oregon, S. Ettinger and Anthony Lettleys; from Umpqua county, Oregon, George L. Snelling. Committees were appointed to memorialize Congress, the Legislature of the State of California and the Legislative Assembly of Oregon, after which the convention adjourned to meet at Jacksonville on the 17th of April following. The delegate to Congress from Oregon, General Lane, was opposed to the project; but the chief cause of its failure was that a large majority of the people of California, and all their representatives in Congress, were violently opposed to it.
The Legislative Assembly of the territory of Oregon, at its session in 1853-54, seemed to be very much alive to its interests. A bill was passed submitting the question of the formation of a state constitution to a vote of the people, which was defeated. They also passed an act incorporating a railroad company to build a railroad from Portland to the California line, by the way of the west side of the Willamette river; but, unfortunately, this project did not materialize. Among their local acts was one submitting to the voters of Douglas county the selection of the county seat. There was much excitement created on this subject. Aaron Rose, who held a Donation claim at the mouth of Deer creek, offered three acres of land and a contribution of one thousand dollars towards the erection of the courthouse, whereby he secured the prize, the vote for Deer creek being 265, for Winchester ninety, and for Looking Glass twenty-five. A townsite was laid out and named Roseburg, which is now one of the most thriving cities in Southern Oregon. The raising in Southern Oregon, one at Oakland, one at Winchester, one at Deer creek and two on Beer creek, in Jackson county.
The increased business of the country demanded additional mail facilities, which the general government granted in a very niggardly manner; but the United States postal agent, J.C. Avery, managed so to change the schedules as to shorten the time from Portland to Yreka seventeen days. During the year a good wagon road was constructed from Scottsburg to the Oregon and California road. Congress having made an additional appropriation of twenty thousand dollars for the completion of the military road from Scottsburg to Rogue river, Lieutenant Withers, U.S. Army, who was detailed to resume the survey and construction of the same and charged with the expenditure of the money, arrived at the scene of his labors in October, 1854.
The brilliant prospects offered by the beach mines of Coos Bay in 1853, and which attracted so large an immigration, were not fulfilled in 1854. The great sea that had deposited untold wealth upon its shores in the previous season, with its usual capriciousness removed it all in the following winter. The spring found both mines and merchants bankrupt. The merchants mostly returned to Scottsburg; but a few far-seeing men, among whom were Rogers & Flanagan, Northrup & Lymonds and James Aiden, remained, satisfied that the coal and lumber of this region offered sufficient inducements to remain and await developments. The first cargo of coal was mined from a drift in the Boatman Donation claim. It was transported in wagons a mile and a half to Coal Bank slough, and both vessel and cargo were lost on the Coos Bay bar. Another cargo was shipped shortly afterwards, procured from the same source. At the time the price of coal in San Francisco was forty dollars per ton; and freight from Coos Bay was paid at the rate of thirteen dollars per ton.
About March 15, 1854, the brig
Frances Helen left the mouth of the Umpqua for Coos Bay, expecting
to make the trip in a few hours. After having crossed out, she had to put
to sea on account of heavy weather, and did not cross the Coos Bay bar until the 27th, and after crossing went ashore on the north spit, where she remained in a perilous position for three days, but was finally got off by the exertions of her master, Captain Leeds, and safely moored in the harbor. The brig had on board ninety tons of freight from Scottsburg.
In April, 1854, the first newspaper of Southern Oregon was published by D.J. Lyon at Scottsburg, William J. Beggs being the printer. It was styled the Umpqua Gazette, and was edited with more than average ability. Judge Deady held the first term of the district court in Coos county at empire city on October 2, 1854.
The remaining incidents of 1854 are connected with the expedition of Captain Jesse Walker to assist the incoming immigration by the southern route in that year. On July 17, 1854, Governor Davis of Oregon, at the request of the citizens of Jackson county, issued an order authorizing John E. Ross, as colonel of the militia, to call into service a company of volunteers for that purpose, if he should deem it necessary. The governor also directed a communication to General Wool, commanding the Department of the Pacific, requesting his attention to our Indian relations in that direction. General Wool, although deeply impressed with the necessity of such an expedition, had no force of regular troops which could be spared for such service. Colonel Ross, who by his former experience was fully aware of the necessity of such protection, on the third day of August issued a call for a company of volunteers, to serve for the term of three months. The company, consisting of seventy-one men rank and file, was promptly enlisted. The officers were Captain Jesse Walker, Lieutenant C. Westfeldt and Isaac Miller, Sergeants William G. Hill, R.E. Miller and Andrew J. Long. The instructions of Colonel Ross to Captain Walker were to proceed at once to some suitable point near Clear Lake, in the vicinity of Bloody Point, and protect the trains. the treatment of the Indians was left to the discretion of Captain Walker, but concluded with the following terms: "If possible, cultivate their friendship; but, if necessary for the safety of the lives and property of the immigration, whip and drive them from the road."
About the same time that the company of Captain Walker left Jacksonville, a party of experienced mountaineers, fifteen in number, left Yreka with the same object. The Yreka company struck the Indians on the north side of Tule Lake, and were met with a shower of arrows. Their force being insufficient to withstand the charge, they fell back to await the arrival of the Oregon company. When Captain Walker arrived, he sent forty men of his company, with five Californians, to attack the Indian village, which was situated in the marsh three hundred yards from where the attack had been made. The Indians fled, the village was destroyed, and all the men returned to camp at the mouth of Lost river. The headquarters of both companies was established at Clear Lake. Owing to these precautions, the immigrants arrived with few accidents, except the stealing of their stock by the Indians.
On the third of October, Captain
Walker determined to punish these thieves, and with sixteen men started
north in pursuit of them. North of Goose Lake, he met a band of Indians
which he followed the whole day. On the next he came upon them, and found
them fortified upon the top of a huge rock, when he named Warner's Rock
remembrance of Captain Warner, who was killed there in
1849. He immediately charged their stronghold, but was repulsed with the
loss of one man, John Low, wounded. Returning to Goose Lake, the company
met and killed two Indians. The captain again set out with twenty-five
men, and, by traveling in the night, succeeded in reaching Warner's Rock
without being discovered by the Indians, who had retired from the rock
and were encamped on the bank of a creek. The company formed a semi-circle
around the camp, and at daybreak commenced firing. The Indians being completely
surprised took to the brush; but many were killed. The only white man injured
was Sergeant William G. Hill, who was severely wounded in the arm and face
by the accidental discharge of a gun in the hands of one of his comrades.
Returning to Goose Lake, they were ordered home, and were mustered out
of service at Jacksonville November 6, 1854, having served ninety-six days.
When it is considered that these men volunteered with no hope of reward
beyond the consciousness of the performance of a duty, it will not be denied
that they deserved well of their country.