William White and the Indians.
Submitted by Gary Reese
Urban East Hicks, "William White Murder, " Incidents, dangers and
hardships endured during the Yakima and Clickitat Indian War, 1855-56.
Part three of the personal recollections of Captain Urban East Hicks.
Among the residents in my neighborhood was a much respected far¬mer
named William White whose family, with others were forted up in what
was known as Eaton Fort on Chambers Prairie. No hostile Indians
having been seen or heard of in that neighborhood for a long time, the
family went, on Sunday, to a religious meeting, held in a country,
school house a few miles distant.
Mrs. White and another lady named Stewart, with a child in her arms
rode in a small one horse cart, while Mr. White walked and drove.
On their return, and when almost within sight of the fort, a party of
six Indians, headed by Yelm Jim a well known Indian in that
neigh¬borhood rushed out on horseback from a point of timber near
the road and attacked White.
An effort was made to get hold of the reins of White's horse, and in
the scuffle they were dropped. A shot was fired at White,
wound¬ing him severely, but he still continued to fight his
assailants man¬fully until overpowered and killed.
In the meantime the horse, taking fright at the shots and noise started
on a keen run down the road toward the fort. An attempt was made
to overtake him, but he was too fleet for the savage's ponies.
The women clung to the cart, and the big gate being open, the horse ran
straight into the fort, thus saving the lives of the two women and
child; but the mother holding the child in her arms had one foot
terribly mangled by the wheel of the cart, and but one board remained
of the cart bed when they reached the fort.
The body of Mr. White was found the next day by a relief party
near the scene of attack, stripped and horribly cut to pieces.
Yelm Jim was afterward caught and hanged for this deed. Mrs.
White is now the wife of the Hon. S.D. Ruddell of Olympia.
About this time, or perhaps prior, a man by the name of Northcraft
engaged in hauling supplies from Olympia to the Yelm Prairie was
waylaid on the road about half way between Chambers Prairie and the
Yelm, the savages taking him from the wagon after he was wounded, and
tying him to a tree, amused themselves by shooting arrows into him and
otherwise tormenting him until he expired.
The wagon and contents what they could not carry away with them was
(Mrs. Ruddell was Mrs. William White at the time of the murder.).
Mr. White was not satisfied with [his first] claim and came to the
Sound and took a claim twelve miles east of Olympia, where we lived and
did well until the Indian troubles of 1855 56 when we had to go to
forts to live.
We remained in the fort until spring, and some of the families thinking
the trouble was over wanted to return, two or three families going into
one house for mutual protection from the Indians.
William Stewart and family and Mr. White and family, were at the
Eatons. There was preaching appointed at the schoolhouse for
Sunday, so we put a horse to a cart and went; but the report which had
previously been circulated that Mr. Northcraft was missing frightened
the people and minister and the meeting was given up.
We then went to the home of Mr. Conner, who was sick at the time and
who died in three weeks after this event, and after a short visit there
On the way home the Indians came upon us when we were coming around a
point of timber. One of them came so close to Mr. White
before he showed his gun, that when he raised it and fired Mr. White
caught the gun from the Indian's hand and fought with it. Our
horse became frightened and ran away, taking us to Mr. Eaton's.
Mr. White was walking by the side of the cart when he was attacked, and
Mrs. Stewart and her baby and myself and baby were in the cart.
The horse being large jumped to one side to keep the Indian from
catching him, which nearly turned the cart over, and my sister
in¬law was thrown on the wheel and her foot caught and the shoe
torn from it, and the sole was torn completely of f the shoe. Her
foot was seriously hurt, and she did not wear a shoe for two months.
When we reached home there were two men and the house, Mr. Eaton and
Mr. Berry who had just returned from hunting for Mr. Northcraft.
I begged them to go to Mr. White, but they had heard the firing, and
instead of doing as I wanted they went to cleaning, and fixing their
guns, and would not, nor did not go to him, but prepared to go to the
fort. I begged to be allowed to stay in doors, and Mrs. Stewart
was so sick she could not sit up, but the men thought it was not safe
to stay, so they fixed the cart so Mrs. Stewart could lie down and put
the children in some way and I on horseback.
Mr. Eaton had a gun and revolver, and he gave the latter to me and
showed me how to use it, and said if the Indians attacked us he would
fight until he failed, and then I must do my best with the revolver,
and to not give up alive. Mr. Berry walked and led the horse,
carrying also his gun and revolver, and thus we went to the fort that
At the fort we found P. Northcraft with the corpse of his brother but
they were so frightened that they would not venture to go to Mr.
White. The next day they brought him in, and we buried him.
Although the trial was great, yet we felt comforted that we succeeded
in getting his body to give it a decent burial.
Mr. Biglow took Mrs. Stewart, myself and the children home with him and
kept us there until her husband and my son came home from the volunteer
service, when we returned to the fort and remained there until peace
was declared in the fall of 1856.
M. M. Ruddell Olympia, Washington.
The Weekly Ledger
A query about the Indian war [of 1855-56]
brought her wide awake¬
and started her flow of reminiscences.
Yes, indeed, I was in the Indian war, and knew the in¬stant Mr.
William White was killed, for I heard the shot and saw part of the
struggle. Mr. White, with his wife and her sister, Mrs. Stewart, had
been to church that day, the two women, each with a little child
in her arms, were riding in a cart, with Mr. White walking behind with
the lines in his hands driving the horse, when the Indians emerged on
foot from a little point of timber a little ahead of them.
They began to struggle with Mr. White and the horse became frightened
and ran away with the women. This brought them away safe, and the
last Mrs. White saw of her husband in life he was grap¬plng with a
big indian buck.
We knew very well that Mr. White was killed, but none dared. to go
after his body that evening, so all night we waited, in fear and
trembling, not knowing what moment the Indian's would attack our cabin,
but we were not molested, and in the morning my men folks started after
I told them to take one of my sheets along, which they did. They
found the body where they thought they would. There had evidently
been a great strug¬gle before Mr. White gave up his life, for
the ground was all torn up, and trampled. Mr. White's dog had
stayed by his master all night.
The Indians had stripped the body of every stitch of clothing except
the boots. Our men placed the body on a board they had taken for
that purpose spread the sheet over him and brought the remains to the
spring in front of our house. They called me and I bound up the
dead man's head the best way I could to hide the cruel wounds and
bruises the Indians had made.
One arm was broken and he was shot through a vital part. Then I
spread another clean sheet over the form and the men carried him on the
board to a vacant house belonging to Mr. Chambers. I followed on
foot and that wasn't an easy thing to do. Men we got to the house
we were joined by Mrs. White and the neighbors.
Among the most pathetic events of this awful day was the arrival of
Mrs. Bigelow, Mr. White's daughter. Mrs. Bigelow had only
been married a little over a year and was quite a young girl. She
came galloping up with her four months old baby in her arms, the rain
simply pouring down on the mother and child.
My husband took the baby and helped the distracted girl from her
horse. She ran into where her father's body was laid and I tell
you that was hard, too. I warmed the baby and tended it all
day. That baby is now Mrs. Tirzah Royal.
We buried Mr. White out in the little cemetery on Cham¬bers Prairie
and then had to return to our homes. When I started back, one
after another of the neighboring women begged to go with me and stay at
our house till the scare quieted down. So in all we were fourteen
who were sheltered by our two room cabin. Here we stayed for
three weeks while the men were building the block house.
This block house on Chambers Prairie was standing until a few years
ago. As I had a big Dutch oven I baked all the bread that was
consumed by these fourteen people, and I can tell you I baked every,
and all day, too.
When the block house was finished we all moved in. The families
who were there at that time and who had rooms in the block house were
Thomas Chambers, the McMillans, Mrs. White with her children, the
O'Neals, the Parsons and Mrs. Stewart.
Mrs. Stewart gave birth to a baby the day after we moved in.
Almost all our men had joined the volunteers to fight the Indians and
we women, with the children, had to stay there all the time with one or
two men left to guard us.
We brought our water from the creek, the banks of which had been
cleared of brush so the Indians couldn't ambush there. It, was
very unhandy to do our work, for each family had only one room in the
block house to live in, and every¬thing cooking, washing, sleeping
had to be done in this one room.
I got so tired of that way of living that we were the first family to
return to our home, but we were not molested and soon took up our
regular way of living.....
Mrs. George Blankenship, "Mrs. Jane W. Pattison, " Early History of
Thurston County, Washington. Olympia, Washington: n.p., 1914 p. 128-131.