Submitted by Gary Reese

Episodes of "murder most foul" in and around Fort Nisqually, the Nisqually Plains, Fort Steilacoom and Steilacoom in the early days and the deaths of local people at the beginning of the Indian War of 1855-56,

Compiled by Gary Fuller Reese, Tacoma Public Library.

1. Leander Wallace and the Snoqualmies at Fort Nisqually.

2. John Crawley and Goliah at Fort Steilacoom

3. Indian Bob and the Washington Territorial Volunteer.

4. Andrew Byrd, J.M. Bates and the Steilacoom Vigilantes.

5. The Claim Jumpers and the Steilacoom Citizens.

6. Bill Huggins and the Snohomish medicine man.

7. Cush and His Enemies.

8. William White and the Indians.

9. James McAllister, Michael Connell and the Start of the Indian War.

10. A. Benton Moses and Joseph Miles at Connell's Prairie.

11. William A. Slaughter.

12. Hunter, Buchanan and Tah Hal, The Stoney Lake Murders


While the romantic history of the Old West is filled with stories of vigilantism, lynching and other examples of frontier justice the actuality of it in the Puget Sound Country was uncommon.

Perhaps because the first settlements involved the commercial establishments of the Hudson's Bay Company followed by a United States military presence the stories of general lawlessness known elsewhere were not as basic a part of the history of the region as perhaps as they were elsewhere in the 1850s

The Indian/White conflict produced many confrontations and a series of episodes called the Indian War of 1855-56 were lethal to a large number of Indians and some settlers and soldiers. There were vigilante episodes in and around Steilacoom but in general the "shoot-um-up" time period was short, relatively minor and soon passed.

Charles Prosch, an early newspaper editor, presented a somewhat different view. He wrote "Washington territory had a fair share..." of such events and that "..Pierce County became somewhat noted in early days for affairs of this kind, they having occurred quite frequently there."

Mr. Prosch in his reminiscences lists three such incidents in Steilacoom's history and perhaps that was too many for Mr. Prosch's finer sensibilities. The response to such charges is recorded by Edward Huggins who arrived in 1851 and spent the rest of his life in Pierce County.

The Fort Nisqually stories tell of the killing of the American Leander Wallace in the 1849 attack on Fort Nisqually, the murder of Indian Bob by a member of the Washington Territorial Volunteers and the death of the Cush at the hands of Indian enemies within the precincts of the fort.

The Steilacoom stories tell of the murder of a prominent citizen by a supposed half-wit and his subsequent hanging by a spontaneous episode of vigilantism; the planned executions of two robbers and claim jumpers by an organized group,  the "doing in" of an enemy by an Indian thought to have been wronged and the murder of the Indian Goliah attributed to a soldier stationed at Fort Steilacoom.

It should be noted that there are differing opinions as to the identity of Charles McDaniel/McDonald of claim jumping fame. Newspaper articles written at the time call him McDonald but both Erastus Light and McLain Chambers who were participants in one form or another call him McDaniel.  His tombstone notes "McDaniel."

The Mr. "X" of the Byrd tragedy has also been identified by Byrd family tradition as an enemy who became such for reasons known perhaps only to himself.

The deaths of William White, James McAllister and Michael Connell, A. Benton Moses and Joseph Miles and of Lieutenant William A. Slaughter can be considered the lethal beginning of the Indian War of 1855-56.

Gary Fuller Reese

|ALHN - Washington Main Page|