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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Rogue River Indian War 1867

(Communicated)
Southern Oregon--No. 1.
    It is particularly within the province of the inhabitants of Southern Oregon to discuss the rise and progress of settlements in the fertile valleys of Rogue River and its tributaries; also, to compare notes concerning the growth, present and future prosperity of Jacksonville and the surrounding country. It is, however, necessarily expected that, no matter how accurate the person may be who attempts to chronicle the events of the past, many things that have taken place will be overlooked, forgotten, or not known. Just so it will be with one who attempts to predict the future, judging from the past or any other standpoint. Many, yes, very many, will be found who, when speaking of the past, will illustrate many things within their knowledge that have been omitted by the most accurate delineator, or when speaking about what is most likely to take place, if for nothing else a difference of opinion must be thrust in to show that this is a free country where each individual has the inalienable right to express an opinion about what has been and what is likely to be. To this none should object. For our part we speak the truth, and say we are glad it is so, and would be still more gratified if it was more so--when founded on truth, reason and good sense. It is with some misgivings that we have written this much, but will take courage and proceed, for the reason that, if mistaken, we are honestly so.
    So far as Southern Oregon is concerned in these articles, it is our intention to confine our remarks to that portion of it known as Jackson County and to Jacksonville. For the purpose of getting a good start (something like the Japanese embassy that could not reach Washington City without starting from California), we shall cross the 42 parallel and state that in the summer of 1850 gold was found in the flat near where Yreka now stands. It was then in Shasta County. A great number of persons were scattered over the country, prospecting, and it soon became a well-known fact that the country north of Shasta Butte and south of Rogue River was an extensive gold-bearing region. During the years '50 and '51, the district that is now Siskiyou County attracted the greatest number of prospectors, and rich developments were made during that time. This, as a matter of course, opened communication with the northern and more thickly settled portion of Oregon. The Yreka diggings at that time appeared to be the center from which supplies radiated to supply the surrounding diggings. Beef, bacon, flour, butter, potatoes, etc., were in great demand. Oregon was at that time the most accessible and could furnish considerable quantities of the necessary supplies. Beef cattle were abundant, for the Oregonians had for some time turned their attention to the raising of cattle. The pasturage was then fine and extensive, and it was considered the most masterly process of making money without practicing economy or industry. As a consequence, large numbers of cattle were obtained in Oregon and driven south to Yreka and adjacent localities. A large number of pack trains were put upon the line of the Oregon trade. This at once attracted the attention of the traveler to the Rogue River Valley, which at that time was tolerably well stocked with Indians, who were constantly on the alert, committing depredations, killing and robbing along the entire line between the Canyon and Klamath River. The only question with them was "can this or that be done, and an escape effected?"
    For the purpose of placing before the reader a correct idea of the prime moving cause that brought about the settlement of Rogue River Valley in 1851, here it will be necessary to digress for a moment and speak of the early history of Oregon. From the best authority we have, the settlements in the Willamette Valley commenced in about the year of 1843 to assume something like a permanent character. It is a well-known fact that Great Britain and the United States both claimed the country from the 42 parallel of latitude north to the Russian possessions, that in 1818 the two governments entered into a joint occupancy treaty--both governments to occupy the same territory--for ten years, and at the expiration of the said ten years, or in the year 1828, the said joint occupancy treaty was continued without period of termination, further than that the government wishing to terminate the treaty should give one year's notice of said desire. Dr. Linn, a United States Senator from Missouri, a gentleman of talent and enterprise, for the purpose of inducing immigrants from the United States to settle west of the Rocky Mountains on the shores of the great Pacific introduced a bill into the Senate of the United States granting donations of lands as bounties to all who would cross the mountains and settle in Oregon. This measure was agitated and discussed in Congress for several years. First a bill granting donations to settlers would pass the Senate or House, and fail in the one where the measure did not originate. The presidential election in 1844 in a great measure turned upon the question of "all Oregon 54-40 or fight." During this time the doctrine enunciated by J. C. Calhoun (which was that masterly inactivity with regard to legislation, further than to protect the emigrants, would soon settle the question of title to the disputed territory) was being successfully carried out, and as early as 1843 the settlers from the United States, and the British subjects, held meetings to form a temporary or provisional government, which was a success, and as early as 1845 (see organic law of Oregon--Deady Code) and continued until the 3rd of March 1849. The question of the northern boundary line was by previous negotiation between the two governments, conducted by Webster on the part of the United States, and [by] Pakenham for Great Britain, was settled by the selection of the 42 parallel as the boundary line. After an able and somewhat boisterous discussion in the Senate, the question was settled by a two-thirds vote in 1846.
    This brings us up to the 14th of August, 1848, when a territorial government was established in Oregon, and at this point the subject will be again taken up in a subsequent issue.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, May 4, 1867, page 2


(Communicated)
Southern Oregon--No. 2.
    The treaty between the United States and Great Britain, in 1846, settled the boundary question at the 49th parallel, and on the 14th of August, 1848, the President approved the law organizing a territorial government in Oregon. The rifle regiment that had been raised for service on the Pacific coast, and on account of the Mexican War had been ordered to the immediate scene of strife--where they participated in many of the severest conflicts on the battlefields of Mexico--was, in 1848, ordered to Oregon, where they arrived in the fall of '49. The time for which many of the privates in the rifle regiment had enlisted had expired, or was about to expire, so that only about seventy-five remained at Vancouver, and by an order of the War Department these were transferred to the dragoon service. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ceding Upper California to the United States, had been ratified in September 1848, and General Hitchcock, who was in command of the Department of the Pacific, and whose headquarters were then at Benicia, ordered Major Phil Kearny to Vancouver, with instructions to march overland that portion of the rifle regiment that had been transferred to the dragoon service, and report at Benicia. The direct route lay through Rogue River Valley. In May 1851 Major Kearny left Vancouver and, diverging to the east of the main traveled road, approached Rogue River some fifteen or twenty miles above Table Rock. The command consisted of two small companies, respectively commanded by captains Walker and Stuart. Desiring to effectually prevent the escape of Indians should any be found, Captain Walker was ordered to cross to the south side of the river--at this time they were ten or fourteen miles above Table Rock. About ten o'clock in the morning, Indians were discovered on the north side, running from the hill to the river. A charge was ordered and most gallantly led by Captain Stuart, who received a mortal wound on the first fire. The number of Indians was estimated at from two to three hundred, while the entire force of Capt. Stuart, engaged in the action, did not exceed thirty-five. The Indians were finally completely routed. Many attempted to escape by jumping into the river, but Captain Walker's company done good execution from the south bank, and sent most of them to a watery grave. This occurred on the 18th of June 1851. The next day, the wounded captain was placed upon a litter and the company reached Stuart's Creek and encamped where Phoenix now stands. Just as the command halted, Captain Stuart breathed his last. He was there buried, but through the liberality of Major Kearny his remains were afterwards taken up and sent to Washington City for burial. All who knew the gallant captain grieved sincerely at his death, and Major Kearny determined to avenge him. He dispatched an express to Yreka and another to Josephine Creek, to obtain volunteers to assist in chastising the Indians, and thus also give better protection to prospectors and miners. The major remained in this vicinity some two weeks, scouring the country on both sides of the river. His supplies becoming scarce, he was then compelled to move forward on his march towards Benicia. At that time it was difficult and expensive to obtain supplies in this locality.
    During the time that Major Kearny was beating up the Indians he was accompanied by many civilians, who were at once struck with the beauty and fertility of the country, and in the fall of 1851 commenced settlements. Prior to this time, no white settlement had been made in what is called the Rogue River Valley. Among the first who settled in the valley at this time are: N. C. Dean, Thomas Smith, Russell, Barron and Dunn. These are still residing upon the locations at that time chosen by them. There may be others still here who settled in this valley in 1851, whose names are omitted through ignorance of that fact. A. A. Skinner, who had been appointed agent for the Rogue River Indians, made a location and established an agency on Stuart's Creek. During the fall of 1851, a temporary arrangement was made by Skinner with Joe and Sam, chiefs of the Rogue River Indians, that the whites should be permitted to settle on the south side of the river, but not on the north. This arrangement was made on account of several white settlements having already been made on the south side, and, besides, the main traveled road from Oregon to Yreka passed upon the south side, nearly through the center of what was then called Rogue River Valley. We may then consider the fall of 1851 as the time when Rogue River Valley commenced settling. During the winter of  '51-2, several miners were at work on the Big Bar in the river, and on some of the gulches in what is called the Blackwell diggings. Sometime in February 1852, James Poole and James Clugage made the discovery of gold on Rich Gulch. The first discovery was made within the limits of what is now the Jacksonville corporation. This at once created an excitement--people from all parts were directing their course to the new diggings--Clugage took the claim where Jacksonville is now situated, and Poole the claim adjoining Clugage's on the east.
    The Oregon Legislature, in 1851, had laid off a new county, comprising a great portion of Oregon south of the Canyon, called Jackson County. The name was popular, and in 1852, when the diggings were discovered, the creek was called Jackson Creek, and the town, which soon gave evidences of a rapid growth, was called Jacksonville. During the year 1852, the population of Southern Oregon increased more rapidly than at any subsequent period. The mines on Rich Gulch and Jackson Creek were considered the best--it has since been proven that both forks of Jackson Creek were very rich. As was before stated, the rush from all directions to the Rich Gulch diggings was immense; this, as a matter of course, gave rise to more extensive prospecting. Rogue River, from the Big Bar to Galice Creek, paid well; in the Blackwell diggings and on Sardine Creek gold was found in paying quantities. Some good strikes were made at Willow Springs, or Sams Creek, which have since proved more extensive. Sailor Diggings, Josephine, Siskiyou, Sucker and Althouse creeks, then in Jackson County, have all yielded their millions.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, May 11, 1867, page 2


(Communicated)
Southern Oregon--No. 3.
    The great rush to Southern Oregon in 1852 was principally in pursuit of gold; however, many discreet and far-seeing Oregonians and Californians made valuable locations and commenced farming. The greater portion of those who commenced opening farms in '52 labored under great difficulties--labor was difficult to obtain except at exorbitant prices. provisions and supplies of every description had to be packed or freighted in wagons over an almost impassable road for over two hundred miles, which necessarily compelled the consumer to pay very high prices for all the indispensables of life. Notwithstanding the rush of miners and settlers during the spring, summer and fall of 1852, but very little was produced; in fact, nothing to affect the price demanded for supplies. The population was still increased by quite a large immigration from the States, who made their way to Jackson County by what was then and yet known as the Southern Emigration Route [much later named the Applegate Trail], crossing the Nevadas at what is called the Lassen Trail, scooping round the west end of Goose Lake, crossing the Klamath River at the natural bridge; thence down Emigrant [Creek] to Stuart's Creek, where they approach the extensive valley of Rogue River.
    It is hardly necessary to call the attention of the reader to the fact that, in 1846, Jesse Applegate, now of Umpqua Valley, and who had resided in Oregon since 1843, being a man of science and enterprise, headed a company from Oregon to explore a wagon route by which emigrants could reach this state, as the Cascade Mountains had, up to that time, been almost an insurmountable barrier. Applegate was, without doubt, induced to take his course south from the Willamette, impressed with the belief that, as what was known as the great South Pass, through the Rocky Mountains, was about the 42 parallel, that with slight variations a low pass, near that parallel of latitude, was continuous from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. This has since been proven to be the case, by exploration. Mr. Applegate and party took their course across the Calapooia Mountains and the Umpqua country, and continued up the hitherto celebrated Canyon (where there is now a good toll road), passing through Rogue River Valley, over the natural bridge on the Klamath, through Goose Lake Valley, over the Sierra Nevada, thence to the Humboldt River, and formed a junction with the Oregon Emigrant Trail at Lost River. Through the enterprise of Mr. Applegate and party, the first emigrants from the States reached Oregon with wagons, by this route, in 1846.
    In the winter of 1848-9, Applegate was a member of the provisional government legislature, and through his aid an act was passed chartering a company extending rights and protection for the settlement of Rogue River and Klamath Lake valleys, but on account of the great gold mania, all who embarked in that magnificent enterprise were compelled to abandon the settlements--so well calculated to make fortunes for those who should make the settlements--and carry out the protection provided for in the charter.
    It will be remembered that all emigration and supplies from Northern to Southern Oregon, 1852, had to pass through the celebrated Canyon, that in the month of December of that year the snow fell to a depth of from three to five feet--cutting off all travel for several weeks. Supplies being already scarce in Southern Oregon, this caused enormous prices--such as $1.25 per pound for flour; 40 and 50 cts. for beef; salt, $8 per pound; tobacco (almost indispensable to miners) from $4 to $8 per pound, and all other articles in proportion. Those who had commenced their settlements in '51 had only been able to produce a very limited quantity of supplies; in fact, in the spring of 1853, wheat, oats and potatoes could not be obtained for planting purposes for less than 40 cts. per pound; therefore, the price of labor, as well as all other things necessary for the farmer to produce [omission?]. Supplies were so very high that only a limited quantity was produced--not enough to supply the wants of the country; for be it remembered [that] all that portion of Oregon from the Umpqua south to Shasta County was then a mining region, being worked and traversed by thousands of miners, depending entirely on the importation of supplies. Let it also be remembered that in '53 Indian depredations became so common that the whole country was in a ferment, from Humbug Creek, south of Klamath, to the North Umpqua River being inhabited by numerous bands of Indians, who had always been committing thefts and murders whenever an opportunity offered, became openly hostile, and the war of 1853 was thus made a matter of self-defense. The Rogue River Indians being the most numerous, and their country the most desirable to both parties, it was made the theatre of the war. Several companies were raised, and through the aid of Capt. Alden, U.S.A., were mustered into service. Col. John E. Ross was in command. This war was a short one compared with the Indian war of 1855-6--it lasted only thirty days--but was prosecuted by the Indians with their customary barbarity and brutality. On the 2nd of August Dr. Rose and Mr. Hardin were killed between the Willow Springs and Dardanelles. The houses situated between Dean's and Rogue River were set on fire by the Indians on the night after Rose and Hardin were killed, and most of them burned. The main body of the volunteers were encamped on Stuart's Creek, near where Hopwood's mill now stands. Several families were located at Dardanelles, and there is but little doubt that they would have been massacred had it not been for the gallantry of Capt. Hardy Elliff, commander of an independent company of volunteers, who, with his company, charged through the Indian lines, passing over the dead body of Rose, and was under fire of the Indians for several miles; however, they passed through without receiving any serious wounds and rendered very timely aid to the unprotected families. On the next day, August 21st, a small scouting party, under command of Lieut. Ely, was attacked by a large body of Indians at a place called the Meadows, on the right-hand fork of Evans Creek, on the north side of Rogue River, where two men were killed and Lieut. Ely wounded. Stock was stolen by the Indians, and not only the lives but the property of the settlers was in constant danger. General Joe Lane, then a delegate to Congress, but at home on a visit, arrived at headquarters. His bravery and military skill caused the people to place great confidence in him as a person well calculated to lead the volunteers to victory; consequently, by common consent of all, he was selected as the commander of the volunteer forces. It was well known that the Indian forces were on the north of Rogue River; consequently, the command was divided, and on the morning of the 22nd of August, two companies, commanded by captains Goodall and Rhodes, were placed under command of General Lane--the other two companies were commanded by Captain Lamerick and T. F. Miller.
    On the 22nd the battalion commanded by Lane took up the line of march, crossing Rogue River and encamping that night on the ground where Lieut. Ely was attacked the day before. On the morning of the 23rd the Indian trail was discovered bearing north, and pursuit was made. At night the command reached the main or middle fork of Evans Creek, where they remained during the night. On the morning of the 24th, the trail of the Indians was again found, ascending the mountain on the west. Pursuit was continued along the summit of the main mountain. About 10 o'clock a.m. a gun was fired a short distance in advance, which was the first notice of the near approach to the Indians. The command advanced regularly, without noise, until the Indians were distinctly heard talking in a deep ravine in advance, when orders were given to dismount. Capt. Goodall and company, with Capt. Alden and six regulars, advanced directly down the hill to charge the enemy and bring on an engagement. Capt. Rhodes made an oblique move around to the left, in order to cut off the retreat down the creek. In a short time the battle commenced, both sides firing briskly. The Indians occupied an almost impregnable position and numbered from two to three hundred warriors, while the attacking party did not muster more than fifty effective men. The Indians were protected by thick underbrush and fallen timber. Many of them occupied hollow logs that had been burned out by fire, and did effective service by shooting through the knotholes.
    In the early part of the engagement Capt. Alden was severely wounded by a rifle ball in the neck--several others were slightly wounded about the same time. Far in advance, the gallant Capt. [Pleasant] Armstrong, from Yamhill, and two privates were killed, when a charge was ordered and headed by General Lane, who was shot through the arm when within a few rods of the Indian breastworks. This caused a retrograde movement. Between one and two o'clock p.m. a parley was commenced, and a quasi armistice was entered into. In a short time Col. Ross, Capts. Lamerick and Miller and their forces arrived. Many were for commencing the battle again, but General Lane opposed it, for the reason that he had pledged his word that the whites would not open fire on the Indians without giving them timely warning, and that a council had been appointed for ten o'clock next day. At the council it was agreed that the Indians should meet at the expiration of ten days and hold a treaty on Rogue River, near Table Rock. The command was marched and encamped on the north side of the river, where Bybee's Ferry is now located, and a messenger sent after Joel Palmer, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and a treaty was concluded on the 10th day of September, 1853.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, June 1, 1867, page 2

I checked the Sentinel through June 1868 and, sadly, the narrative was never continued.




Last revised March 6, 2014