8. William White and the Indians.
Submitted by Gary Reese

Three versions.

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 destroyed.


(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 started home.

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 night.

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 Mr. White. 

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.

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