| being swept away.
Schaeffer, who was a very large man, held the other end from the bank.
Joseph was a shim, wiry man in those clays and he
jumped quickly onto his horse and plunged It into the boiling stream,
which was so deep that the water flowed over his horse's back.
Belle called to him to save her mother first, so he
carried Mrs. Webber to the bank and then went back for the daughter Just
after Belle was taken safely on to his horse, the drift dislodged and went
tossing down the stream.
Of Chief Joseph
This accident happened on a
Friday and the river was so high that Webber's body was not found by the
searching settlers until Sunday.
Joseph's brave act was always appreciated by the
valleys few settlers, although, on the whole, they had little use for the
Whatever their attitude toward the Indians, it was
fortunate for the early settlers in the Wallowa country that they had such
a man as Joseph to deal with. For, combined with his natural honesty and
his pride in the clean Nez Percé
record in that tribe's dealings with the white man, there was his intense
love of his native land.
This love made him cautious, made him keep his young
men in check so that there would be no excuse on the part of the whites to
drive the Indians out. That is what kept the Wallowa Indians and the white
settlers at peace with one another during the early years of white
immigration into this valley. Josephs attitude is clearly shown in a
letter printed in 1873. "From a private letter received from Lapwal we
learn that Chief Joseph has visited the post and is reported to
have said that he heard with sorrow that the whites of Wallows valley
expected him and his Indians to attack them. He said had not, nor did he
intend to do any thing of the kind
Settlers Chanted Clue to Feeling
The attitude of the majority of
the settlers is shown by another letter in the same paper The writer tells
about meeting a few of the settlers at night on their way out of Wallowa
in their wagons, after some sort of a scare. As they
rode, some of them sang:
"Run nigger, run nigger, and try to get away, before
Old Joseph kicks up a row."
Josephs desire for conciliation with the white settlers
has been amply told about in his biographies. But as far as actual
contacts go his biographers have dealt mostly with his relations with
white men during the Nez Peace war and in his later years, when be became
"history and "news."
It is a different thing, a warmer thing, to come across
these little stories of his actions before the war, when he was still a
free and unbroken man, and to know that he was not only conciliatory (a
matter of policy in those upset years) with the early settlers, but that
he was brave and just and that he really made friends with several of
In 1872 there were a series of councils between the
Wallows Nez Percés and the earliest
settlers in the valley. Joseph F. Johnson. who acted as the interpreter
and chairman of the meetings between the whites and the Indians, told his
son Ernest, in years, that this conversation took place between him and
"Chief Joseph wanted to know how much
land the whites wanted. He said all the Wallowa valley belonged to tile
Nez Percé Indians and so he
(Johnson) explained that the great white father at Washington told the
whites they could come to Wallowa and each man have 160 acres or
one half a mile square. Which he illustrated to Chief Joseph by pointing
out how large a piece of land it was. That would be all the land each
white man would need."
Joseph laughed and said: "If that is all, you and your
klutchman (women) and papooses can stay and live in peace. It's all
Joseph and Johnson became friends and later, in 1877,
when matters were coming to a head between the whites, the Indians
and the United States government, and both settlers and Indians were on
edge, Joseph sent six of his trusted couriers to Johnson. These men told
him from Joseph, that his young men were determined to go on the warpath,
but that he was determined that they would never fight in Wallowa valley
or spill blood there Johnson's son remembered that his father thanked the
men and kept them at his cabin for dinner.
Another of Joseph's white friends was A. C. Smith.
Smith was very popular with all the Indians, one of the reasons for which,
says T. T. Geer in his "Fifty Years in Oregon." was that he "habitually
wore moccasins and white duck trousers!"
In 1872 Smith started to build a wagon road into
Wallowa valley from the Grande Ronde country. Joseph came to Smith's camp
to see him about it. He told him he didn't want any road built into
the Wallowa valley, because it belonged to him and his tribe. If Smith
built the road the whites would soon be coming in to settle. He told
him if he wanted, however, he could run it his horse in the valley.
Smith said that if he did that the Indians would steal
them. Joseph replied, trying to bargain, that if he wouldn't build his
rood, any of his horses the Indians stole would be brought back to him.
Smith went ahead and built his road, and later, a
bridge across the Wallowa river. But he and Joseph remained friends. In
fact they stayed friends for more than 25 years. It was Smith who arranged
some of the meetings between Joseph and the Wallowa valley citizens in
latter years, when Joseph visited the valley trying to get back part of it
as a reservation for his people.
R. M. Downey, Wallowa county's first assessor, has told
about how he traded horses with Chief Joseph and had often beaten him
shooting at marks (He didn't mention who beat at the horse trading!)
Downey said that one of the times he talked with Joseph, Joseph told him
that Chief Moses, from a neighboring tribe, said for him to kill all
immigrants as they clam into the Wallowa valley or else he would lose his
country, Joseph said "no!"
Would Not Build
Downey also said that Joseph
didn't intend for the settlers to build houses or plow here, he thought
they would only run their stock on his land he said it would be all right
for them to come in.
Another early settler, William McCormick, told of
Joseph's visit to his cabin on Alder slope and that he "often gave him a
quarter of beef to take back to camp with him when he left."
Even the killing of the Indian Wil lot yah by A. B.
Findley didn't prejudice Joseph against all the settlers, or even against
Findley. The fault lay with the other white men In the affair McNall, he
said, after being told about it by the Indians present he continued to
visit the Findley home. Mrs. Findley often told in later years of
how he would take the Findley children on his lap and call them his
papooses. He would join them in their game and, its turn, taught them
An ever present source of trouble, between the Indians
and the whites in the west was gold. After seeing what had happened
between the two peoples in other parts of the county Joseph must
have worried about the discovery of gold in his Wallowa country.
There is a story told by Dan
Otto, an old prospector, abut gold or what he felt sure was gold, and
Joseph. He said that at one time when he and some other white men were at
Chief Joseph's camp near Wallowa lake, some Indians rode up and handed
Joseph something that looked like nuggets Joseph looked at them a moment
and threw them into the lake. He talked to the Indians who had
brought the stones for a few minutes and then, said Otto, "they struck out
as fart as they could ride " Otto and the other men there always
supposed that Joseph must have told It Pro to go back and cover up the
place where: they had found the stones.
To Draw Pictures.
Mentioned by Many
Joseph's artistic ability is not often mentioned, but that he must have
had some such natural ability comes from several varied sources. The first
person to speak of it was William Masterson, who was at the council
between the early settlers and the Indians held in the forks of the
Wallowa and Lostine rivers in 1876. He said that Chief Joseph had
made a crude drawing of the killing of the Indian Wil-lot-yah by Findley
and McNall, from descriptions given him by Indians who were present.
Masterson said that the drawing was so plain that he could recognize
McNall, with his old hat pulled down on his head. and Findley with his
bobbed hair hanging nearly to his shoulders and his beard. The drawing
also included the gun.
E. S. McComas speaks of Joseph "dropping to his knees
and sketching a map of northwestern Oregon" when he interviewed him
Another time that his artistry was spoken of was in
"The Oregonian for April 27, 1878 quoting from the Leavenworth Times. "In
front of his neatly arranged tent stands a large tree, which he has blazed
and on the white wood painted a number of hieroglyphics which detail the
cause of his residence on the bank of the Missouri. The base of the blaze
is filled with a long row of Indian lodges painted in red Above these are
horses, birds, wolves, dogs and men, all represented in such manner as to
convey the idea that they are all closely connected."
Young Joseph, Hin-mah-too-lat-kahht (thunder rolling
over the mountains) was a remarkable man, friend. artist, chief, warrior,
strategist, diplomat and orator, but the part of him that will
always appeal to the imagination and touch the feelings of men most
closely was his devoted love for his native country. Wallowa, "land of
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