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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Correspondence of the Oregon Superintendency
1882
Southern Oregon-related correspondence with the Oregon Superintendency for Indian Affairs.


Letter from Oregon.
Siletz, Oregon, Jan. 16th, 1882.
Dear Roman Citizen,
    The Star of Bethlehem lit up with its soft radiance the breakfast room of our Indian Training House. All of the previous week the pulse of expectant joy ran high--for the agent had issued cards of invitation for the public dinners, to be furnished to any of every tribe on the reservation who would come, at the signal of the bell on the tower, to the boarding school.
    It was decided in domestic council that the viands for that day's entertainment should be entirely the cooking of our Indian girls, under the direction of the cook, that the guests might see for themselves the result of their instructions. Two hundred loaves of bread (fit for a king's table), five hundred small cakes, as many doughnuts, twenty-six loaves of fruit cake, with the baking and boiling [sic] of a whole animal, gave full play to their ambitions in that line. Probably there is no branch of education which our Indian friends so richly appreciate as the cooking. Are they not somewhat like unto us in that?
    Perhaps you imagine that because we are away out here towards sundown, and three hours in arrears every day, that we must be a long way behind in modern achievements. But if you had been here on festival night, you would begin to look about you and query, "Can this be an Indian reservation, beyond all railroads and the last range of mountains on the verge of the American continent?"
    Listen to that salutatory, "Glory to God in the highest," and you will ask if the gospel light and heat are not fast girdling this beautiful earth.
    A class of little girls clad in pink dresses and white aprons recited each a verse of the Twenty-Third Psalm, chorusing the last. A crowd of delighted eyes looked out from dusky faces with surprise as their little ones rehearsed so well the sweet words of the Shepherd King of Israel.
    If brought into close comparison I cannot say which party would win the laurel wreath, the young ladies of your city, or the scores of Indian maidens who went through the tactics of the "Broom Brigade Drill" here. These showed unison and taste to "kneel and aim" and were encored.
    --Our tallest girl has just been promoted to the dignity as assistant teacher in the day school. I know of no other case of this kind on the Pacific Coast, which gives this evidence of advancement in this brief time she has been with us. The boys, too, are getting on finely in their studies. They gave us (what was to me the gem of the evening) a calisthenic exercise to the measure of music. The melody of motion was seen and enjoyed by all. Soon these boys will be put to trades, for it is Mr. Swan's policy to advance the pupils of the institution to places of trust, responsibility and profit, as fast as their characters and progress warrant it. Rations for 51 are now weekly called for; this is 11 more than the utmost provision anticipated when we began. We are more than full. Do you wonder that I plead for release from this load of care and toil, and insist that a fresh hand should take the helm?
    --Among the Indians most reluctant to leave their seacoast home was a remnant of the Alsea tribe. An order from the Department, however, required the agent to bring them under the wing of this agency. Two children from those are with us, but they never lived amid settlements of the whites, and are not all at home as yet. Every day, as natural as the needle turns to the pole, those little girls wend their way to the stile, and look with longing eyes along the road they came. I cannot find it in my heart to chide them, for I too have something of the home longings. They have not taken root, neither have I in Oregon soil.
Yours,
    MATILDA TAFT.
Roman Citizen, Rome, New York, February 3, 1882, page 2


Letter from Oregon.
Siletz, Oregon, Sept. 5th, 1882.
To the Editors of the Roman Citizen:
    Following in the wake of Eastern sages, we had our "Summer School of Philosophy." The laws governing Indian reservations do not allow the young ladies to go outside its boundaries, so the agent obtained special permission to send twelve of the large girls to the seacoast for refreshment and instruction, accompanied by one of my helpers. A house was secured, and rations and blankets followed for a sojourn of six weeks.
    The journey thither was replete with interest. Crossing Yaquina Bay, we drive eight miles on the beach--so solid and smooth when the tide is out that the wheels scarcely leave a track. We pass the outlet to Beaver Creek--a lovely camping spot--where may pleasure seekers resort for fishing and hunting. The unsuspecting deer still haunt these mountain fastnesses. It seems cruel to kill them, especially the fawns, yet no scruples are manifest when a well-cooked dish of "mowitsh" ["deer"] smokes on the table.
    Here and there a small house clings to its hillside home--one of the terms of preemption by the owners of these ranches. With a few chosen friends we might pass a summer here with largely beneficial results. One week I luxuriated in close companionship with the grand Pacific, listening to the intonations of its surging bass and mellowed wavelets. What can compare with old Ocean's potency to charm away the blues and recreate these perishable frames?
    Here is the famous "Seal Rock," a small islet near the shore, where seals congregate and sport like kittens. No care have they for what they shall eat or wherewithal be clothed, for sealskins are the style all the year round on their boulevards. Just here a rugged promontory drives inland for a space. What explorations we made when the tide was out, among the huge rocks, coated with barnacles, and pierced at their base by miniature caves and grottoes where we may fancy sport the mythical mermaids, and Undine holds her court in emerald robes.
    The Indian girls know and love nature. In the sandy formations of the hillsides they fashioned houses with arched partitions, and decorated them with furniture made of clay. They crown each other with pretty garlands of red and white clover blossoms, and bring to our notice many gems of beauty from Nature's laboratory.
    The boys are coming up in the market, too. During kite time I was besieged for papers. As I culled them out to the different ones, Willie shouted out, "Give me a Roman Citizen." Of course he received it. Discriminating youth.
    Business drew me to the outer world, and Salem offered an attraction in the state teacher's convention. The new statehouse was tendered by officials for its sessions. No great condescension in that, though, for some of these school ma'ams from quite rural hamlets may be the "power behind the throne." For two days we held a seat in the senate chamber. Educational interests are advancing in this large and growing state.
    The capital city, in its broad, straight, well-shaded streets, is suggestive of Rome, especially as I walked through its Liberty Street. But it will have to more than double its population to reach the census of our goodly town. The friend whose hospitable doors opened to me has her home close beside the beautiful Willamette River, from which the university in that city takes its name.
    But the Mecca of my journey was the Lee Mission cemetery. Here, in 1836, the first grave was made for a white woman in Oregon, the wife of Rev. J. Lee, first missionary to Oregon. Near his resting place is that of Bishop E. O. Haven. As yet only his name on the board is all that marks the spot. But funds are being collected with which to furnish a monument.
    Albany is reached in an hour and a half, where the Oregon conference is assembled, and I enjoy the rich pleasure of hearing Bishop Hurst and Dr. Fowler. Now my measure of privilege is full, and I take the stage for another toilsome journey back over the mountains. The telegraph wires are within ten miles of us, heralding the approach of the iron horse. They are exalting the valleys and tunneling the mountains to make straight paths for his feet. Mount Hood, in snowy vestments, looks coolly down on the hot and dusty valley. Seven miles to the summit, and half of it through snow. Yet I have just seen a young lady who, with several others, made the ascent in August.
    Pardon the length of this letter. In the service of truth and righteousness,
Yours,
    MATILDA TAFT.
Roman Citizen, Rome, New York, September 22, 1882, page 1




Last revised April 21, 2017