George H. Abbott
And the battle of Pistol River.
SLAUGHTER OF INDIANS BY THE VIGILANTES RECALLED
Colville and Randolph City Miners 74 Years Ago Attack
Sleeping Red Men in Settlement on Coquille River.
MARSHFIELD, Or., Jan. 28.--(Special.)--Seventy-four years ago on the morning of January 28, 1854, 40 miners from the Colville or Randolph City mines, seven miles north of what is now Bandon, at the mouth of the Coquille River, led by George H. Abbott, raided three Indian settlements on the river, which had all told 75 persons, including the children, and devastated the district. The Indians were taken unawares, and when the massacre was over, 15 males and one adult female were dead.
Mr. Abbott's report to F. M. Smith, sub-agent at Port Orford, the next day, said: "The Indians are sitting about the ruins of their smoldering homes." Mr. Abbott signed the report as "captain commanding Coos County volunteers."
That incident of early days, termed "murder" by Sub-Agent Smith, was the subject of a dispute which was never settled in the minds of fair-minded people, for the miners submitted evidence of varied aggravations which the Indians had perpetrated upon the persons and the property of the miners, while Chief John, badly wounded in the massacre, stoutly maintained there had been no offense by the Indians which warranted anything more than a powwow and a definite understanding between the tribe and the whites.
Mines Attract Tough Characters.To this day there are those who look upon the incident as one of the blackest crimes ever committed in Oregon under the guise of plausible excuse. The mines in those days were peopled by admitted tough characters, and there was, on the other hand, a claim that the miners, who numbered about 250, with 50 or more whites residing in the vicinity, were not aware whether the Indians had in their tribe that many warriors or several times that many, and whether or not they could not call in other tribes to aid in wiping out the whites.
Numbered among those who participated in the massacre and who signed subsequent documents relating to the affair were the following: George H. Abbott, leader and general spokesman; A. F. Soap, chairman of secret meetings held prior to and after the massacre; William Packwood, secretary; John Grolonis, a witness; B. J. Bell, J. E. McClure, B. J. Burns, W. J. Berry and J. C. Danford, a committee appointed to seek aid from the United States military station at Port Orford, and who made a special report to Sub-Agent Smith, following the massacre. There were also X. E. Scott and J. B. O'Meally, chairman and secretary of several meetings held to consider the Indian situation; John A. Pension was a witness who swore to incidents of Indian insolence. William Whike was another who was conversant with troubles from the Indians.
In substantiation of reasons for their attack upon the Indians, four reports were made by the executives of the whites' councils, and among the complaints enumerated were: Indian riding white man's horse without permission; the Indians swore at them in English; the Indians did not want them about their settlements; an Indian shot at a crowd of whites who were standing near the ferry house; the Indians cut the rope holding the ferryboat; they had shot across the river at whites; they had committed thefts from houses; that, on being invited in to discuss affairs, Chief John had sent back an insolent reply and said he would kill any white man who approached his encampment. Various other sins were laid at the doors of the Indians.
A rather significant outcome of the massacre was contained in Captain Abbott's report made to Sub-Agent Smith the day of the massacre, January 28, 1854: "I almost forgot to say that our loss was none, either in killed, wounded or prisoners."
Sleeping Indians Attacked.Farcical, almost, was a portion of his report: "And I can say, to the credit of both officers and men, that they behaved like soldiers and avoided innocent bloodshed as much as possible." They had attacked the three Indian settlements at daylight, when the unsuspecting Indians were sleeping.
The whites had accused the Indians of storing arms and munitions, preparatory to an attack upon the miners. Sub-Agent Smith's report of the subsequent investigation showed the ludicrousness of this claim. There were but five powder-and-ball arms in possession of the natives, and two of these were unserviceable. Although the whites, to make their claims good, afterwards said the arms had been destroyed in the fires which burned all but a single hut, a search of the ashes and ruins disclosed no signs of firearms, and the miners' statements regarding preparation by the Indians were found incorrect.
Sub-Agent Smith, who reported to Joel Palmer, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Territory of Oregon, at Dayton, February 5 following the massacre, found a woeful state of affairs in connection with the prior and subsequent activities of the so-called Coos County volunteers.
January 27 the word went out for a gathering of whites at the ferry, which was on the south side of the river, and 40 men responded to the invitation. The vigilance committee had prepared a report of the situation to be sent to Sub-Agent Smith, asking him to forward them soldiers from Port Orford to help protect the whites. This was prepared, or at least signed, January 27, but the report was enclosed to Smith afterwards, following the scenes of the morning of the 28th, it having been decided at the meeting of the day before that it was not policy to wait for orders from Port Orford, only 28 miles away, and so the slaughter took place before any aid had been requested.
On being informed of what had taken place, Sub-Agent Smith proceeded to the scene, finding the Indians dispersed and in hiding, fearful of further atrocities by the whites, although a truce had been arranged the day following the carnage. Chilliman, an Indian, was used as interpreter both by the miners and Mr. Smith. Through his offices, Chief John and others were induced to come in and discuss affairs. They were not inclined to make any complaint, but on promise of protection from the government, the details of the massacre and the charges lodged against the Indians were learned and discussed.
The Indians were ready to make peace at any price and remove from the "homes of their forefathers," if Mr. Smith [so] advised. Chief John was interested in the safety of his people, and only consented to talk when he had been assured that there would be peace in the future.
Shot Fired at Duck.Chief John had been accused of shooting across the river at the white once only, but he explained this incident by saying he had shot at a duck and was not aware there were any whites in the vicinity. He denied firing at men at the ferry house. One of the miners corroborated the chief's statement he had shot at a duck.
None of the Indians had shot at men standing near the ferry house, they all declared. Chief John had not sent insolent replies to the miners when they desired a conference, but he admitted that some of the tribe had done so. The Indians admitted they did not want the whites in their country, and incidents of theft were owned to, and they had ridden the miners' horses without permission.
Mr. Smith reported at great length to Joel Palmer, who forwarded the voluminous report to the Department of the Interior on March 11, 1854.
Indians Have Few Arms.There was an opera bouffe element in the proceedings of that immediate situation--if it were not remembered how the Indians were slaughtered. The miners, several times the strength of the Indians, had called for help from the military post at Port Orford. Sub-Agent Smith, in reporting, said there were only four soldiers at the fort. The miners had claimed the Indians were possessed of a regular arsenal, when they had but five arms, and the miners themselves had but 14 serviceable rifles and shotguns and 11 pistols, making 25 arms in all.
At the meeting of the miners of January 28, held after the morning surprise, measures were adopted to prevent the Indians from obtaining arms, and it was resolved: "That if any person or persons sell, barter, or in any way dispose of any gun, rifle, pistol, carbine or other firearms, or any powder, lead, caps or other ammunition, to any Indian or Indians, such person or persons so offending shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and shall receive for the first offense 30 lashes upon the bare back, and for the second offense shall suffer death."
Rough Element Intimidates.The organization could really be termed nothing more than a vigilance committee, for there were no law enforcement officers in this part of the state at the time, as Sub-Agent Smith set out in his reports when he said there was no way to punish the lawless whites, as there was no justice of the peace in the area, and men who abhorred the massacre were afraid to come into the open and make a stand for decency.
Only the military could be invoked in case of strife or lawlessness, and four soldiers would not have made much of an impression on the rough mining element which was the majority of inhabitants at the time.
Oregonian, Portland, January 29, 1928, page 8 Read official correspondence concerning the massacre on this and subsequent pages.
Idaho Pioneer Relates Incidents of Early-Day Indian Warfare
To the younger generation of today there are no more thrilling tales of adventure than those told by the Idaho and Oregon pioneers of early Indian warfare. Last week two of the state's pioneers, who perhaps have had more thrilling experiences than any two others, met. They are Captain Relf Bledsoe of this city and George H. Abbott, of Soldier. Both were members of the famous Company G, Idaho Volunteers, of which they are justly proud, for at that particular time the regulars would have been very much at a loss had it not been for their timely aid during those exciting days.
One of the stories of the Indian war of 1856 in [Oregon] was taken down as follows, exactly as Mr. Abbott told it when he and Mr. Bledsoe were swapping stories.
"I had joined Captain Bledsoe just a few days before. He had been quartered in a sod fort about a mile and a half up from the mouth of Rogue River, on the coast. He had in the neighborhood of 80 men in the fort and some women and children, and I had raised a bunch of volunteers in the south and gone up there and joined him just a few days before this adventure.
"We determined on an expedition up the Rogue River to a point where the chief hosts of the hostile Indians were at that time quartered. In order to surprise the Indians and show them that white men were equal to them in what might be called bushwhacking, Captain A. J. Smith of the regular army was out in that direction cutting a trail through the country. Captain Bledsoe and myself with 16 men started out in a rainstorm and got to Captain Smith's camp that evening. We arrived there about 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning and went down to Rogue River at a point where a creek called Lobster Creek emptied into the river. There we laid our plans to cut off the Indians either by water, going down the river in canoes, or by trail.
"I suppose we had been in that position about an hour, and the captain and the men on the riverbank were on a ledge of rock that ran away out into the stream, and the current of the stream washed right in under the rock. Three canoes loaded with Indians came down the river. The men who had been selected for this purpose shot the steersman of each canoe. The canoes drifted right against the rock and all the Indian men in the canoes were killed, 12 in number, only one boy and two women escaping. The women, however, came ashore where we were, as they could not get away, and as I could talk to them pretty well, I told them to go back up the river to the Indian camp, which was only two or three miles above there, and tell the Indians that we were going to do that kind of business for them as often as we could catch them, as that was what they had been doing for the whites for over a month.
"We then returned up to where Captain Smith's camp had been, but he had moved on his work. We expected the Indians to follow us, of course, but they did not. We laid in ambush and waited for them two or three hours, but they never came in to us. Then we caught Captain Smith and camped with him the next night, thinking the Indians might possibly attack his camp, and we were there to assist him if necessary. They made no attack on us, however, and we saw no more of them on that trip, but it snowed on us about four inches that night.
"We then went back to the point we had started from, the old sod fort at the mouth of Rogue River, and when the men with us made reports to the others of the success of the expedition it raised their spirits exceedingly high. In a short time ours was the star company in the volunteer service during that war. Nothing could stop them. They would charge through anything where they were led and directed and the Indians could never stand before them, and when they surrendered they did so to Company K of the Oregon Volunteers, which was our company."
Idaho Statesman, Boise, July 25, 1909, page B3
Pioneer Indian Agent Writes of Ghastly Find
George H. Abbott, Government Agent in Oregon Territory in Late
'50s, Tells of Discovery by Him of Bodies of Ledford
Party Massacred in 1859.
Reminiscences of George H. Abbott, Indian agent in Oregon Territory in 1859, written by him in 1896, while they were still fresh in his memory, were discovered by his daughter, Mrs. Lucy Nelson of Fairfield, a few months ago in cleaning out an old desk, and realizing that they are now of historic interest, she sent them to the pioneer department of the Statesman. The first installment gives a graphic account of the finding by Agent Abbott of the bodies of the Ledford party, which started from Jacksonville, Ore. to cross the Cascade Mountains.
Abbott's story follows:
In the month of April 1859, I held the office of Indian agent in Oregon, and received instructions from the then-Superintendent of Indian Affairs for that state, J. W. Nesmith, to proceed to Jacksonville, thence to Klamath Lake and open negotiations with the Indians of that region to open the country to settlement by the whites and to place the Indians on a reservation.
When I arrived at Jacksonville, the Cascade Mountains, which had to be crossed to reach the lake country, were covered with snow and looked to be impassable, but learning that a party of five men had started to the lakes before my arrival and had failed to return, I concluded that they had got safely over the mountains, and I made ready to go also, following their trail.
I employed three or four white men and one Indian--a Klamath Lake Indian--who with a few others of that tribe had passed the preceding winter at Jacksonville. Of the party I remember the names of T. J. Sutton [Thomas J. Sutton, later editor of the Idaho World] and a Mr. Birdseye, while the Indian was called "Jim."
We followed the trail of the party ahead, called the Ledford party from the fact that a Mr. Ledford was one of the party. From the tracks and other sources of information we learned that there were five men, seven horses and a dog in the party.
When the trail reached the snow and got as far into it as was possible, it turned and by a different route than that followed up returned to the valley of Butte Creek, at the western base of the mountains, and went into camp. The plan of their camp was clearly defined by marks of the camp fire, tent pins left in the ground and other indications, unmistakable to frontiersmen, but no trail could be found leading from it.
We made camp some distance away and made [a] systematic search, but only found the carcass of the dog, in the creek, and a piece of rope fastened to a block of wood, evidently part of a picket rope, the animal having been so picketed to allow it to drag the block from place to place while feeding on the young grass. The rope had been cut with a knife or other sharp instrument.
Evidences of Indians.There was evidence that Indians had been in the vicinity about the same time, presumably a hunting party, who had burned their brush camps when they left there. We could only find tracks of one horse at any one place, leaving the prairie valley and going into the timber. Indian Jim and myself went hunting the first thing after dinner and I shot a deer, but did not get it. Mr. Birdseye, the Indian, Jim and I each took the track of a horse, entering the timber at different places, and proceeded to follow to see where they would lead to. When I had gone about two miles in a northerly direction I saw the Indian, apparently following a track, but gradually nearing me as we advanced. Soon he joined me, the two tracks having come together. At my request he continued on the trail while I returned to camp, where I found Birdseye, who had got in before me. On my inquiring if he had found his horse he answered that he had, but that the horse was dead.
By this time I had concluded that the Indians had killed all of the Ledford party, but had not expressed my opinion to the others. Dinner had been prepared, and while we were partaking of it the Indian, Jim, returned to camp and, catching my eye, beckoned me to where he was unsaddling his horse and said that he felt certain that the Indians had murdered the men whose trail we had been following and had taken their horses and other property and had gone north.
He showed me a stirrup from the saddle of a white man which he found in the trail. He reported that after I had turned back he followed the tracks of both horses about a mile, when another horse track joined in, and that while following the trail over a piece of soft ground he found moccasin tracks in the trail. This confirmed my opinion, and after dinner Mr. Birdseye and I went to look at the dead horse found by him. We had some difficulty finding the horse and separated in the brush, when I found the carcass of a horse of a different color to the one found and described by Birdseye.
Find Dead Horses.In short, I found three carcasses, neither of them answering to the one found by him. They had been taken to such a hidden place as the Indians supposed would never be found and shot in the head in each case. I called Birdseye to me, showed him the carcasses found by me, told him that I was quite certain that the Indians had killed all or nearly all of the Ledford party, and in order to conceal the fact had brought four of their horses by devious routes to this place, had killed them and taking three of the seven head that we knew had belonged to the party, together with other valuables, had gone north, repeating what Indian Jim had reported, and the discoveries made by him, and giving it as my opinion that the bodies of the murdered men were hidden in the brush between where we were at the time and the place where the camp was so plainly marked.
We undertook to search the brush and did so to some extent, but found nothing. We then went to camp where the other men were, reported our find and the conclusions reached, made another vain search for the bodies, packed up and started on our return to Jacksonville, as it was impossible to cross that mountain at that time. We wished to report our ghastly discoveries for general information, and especially for the purpose of obtaining means to remove the bodies, when found, to a suitable place for burial, we having no such means other than to pack them on horseback.
Start for Bodies.On our arrival a public meeting was called, the facts stated, opinions exchanged, and as a result a company of 35 men, who chose for captain one John Hillman, was fitted out and sent to find the bodies, if possible, and return them to Jacksonville, a wagon being provided for that purpose, after which the company was expected to follow the trail of the murderers and if they could be found punish them or secure their arrest, as circumstances seemed to favor.
Indian Jim and I accompanied them, but before starting I requested the sheriff to receive and place in jail the Indians about Jacksonville, and to protect them should any person or persons attempt to take vengeance on them for the murder of their friends or relatives.
The sheriff very kindly complied with the request, but I am proud to say that the precaution was unnecessary, as there was no disposition to molest them.
It sometimes happens that the innocent suffer for the crimes of the guilty under the excitement incident to our frontier troubles, hence the precaution.
The company was fully mounted and about 10 o'clock of the second day out made camp at the place of the tragedy. A brother of the murdered Ledford, also the brother of another of his party whose name I have forgotten, was with us, and of course were very anxious to see the dead horses.
I guided them and several others to the carcasses, and one of them recognized his brother's horse beyond doubt by a mark on one of the hoofs. We then began a close search for the bodies, I advising a careful notice of the ground to see if the surface had been disturbed, as I had adopted the theory that the bodies had been buried. Seeing that the search was being but superficially made, I took it upon myself to make it thorough, and by penetrating to the center of a cluster of spruce bushes, which I had looked through before sufficiently to see that there was nothing on the surface of the ground that could be taken for a cache, I found a space clear of brush about six feet square.
The surface looked natural; spruce leaves covered it as if fallen from the bushes, but while looking carefully over it I discovered a short stump, not over an inch in height above the ground, that had been cut off with a knife or ax. Next I found a clod of fresh-dug clay in the brush some three feet to the side of the clear spot, with the imprint of the hollow of an Indian's foot thereon.
Stepping out the brush, I called some of the men, who were looking about the last camping place of the missing party, and leading them into the thicket drew their attention to my discovery and told them that by uncovering the spot we would find either a grave or a cache. Then it was discovered that we had forgotten to bring tools to dig with, but knowing of a fallen tree much splintered, we went to our camp, chopped with an ax two wooden shovels out of large splinters, took dinner which we found ready, and returned to open the grave, if it was a grave.
Discover Bodies.Removing a few inches of the surface we found a pick and shovel, under which was spread a white blanket, which being removed revealed a most shocking sight. There before our eyes were four bodies, nearly nude, showing the ghastly wounds through which their lives had ebbed away. The hands and feet of all four were bound together with plaited bark ropes, such as are made by squaws and were in general use by the natives. One body was missing and was never found, that of Ledford, but I learned later from the Indians that while his comrades were being killed in their tent he escaped therefrom, ran for his life, but was overtaken and killed some two miles down Butte Creek and his body thrown in the creek.
The bodies were taken to Jacksonville for Christian burial, and the company followed the trail of the Indian murderers until it could be no longer found, when all returned to Jacksonville.
I proposed to take about 30 men and proceed to Klamath Lake to quiet any hostile feeling that might develop among the Indians there, everybody of course laying the murder to Indians of that vicinity, and to arrest and bring to punishment, if possible, all who might be implicated.
(To be continued.)
Idaho Statesman, Boise, June 17, 1928, page B2
G. H. Abbott, Indian agent, starts today for Klamath Lake, to arrest the Indians concerned in the massacre of Ledford and his party last spring. Abbott will be accompanied by ten picked men, citizens of this valley, to aid him in his desperate service.
"Southern Oregon," Sacramento Daily Union, October 12, 1859, page 1
Old Indian Agent Tells of Cremation Rites of Dead
George H. Abbott Writes of Experiences of Friendly Oregon
Redskins Who Bring Heads of Guilty Hostiles to
Whites as Peace Offering
George H. Abbott, father of Mrs. Lucy M. Nelson of Fairfield, a government agent in charge of the Indians in Oregon Territory in 1859, wrote for his daughter the story of some of his experience with the western tribes, and after his death the manuscript was found.
Abbott is relating the story of the massacre of the Ledford party in 1859, which started out from Jacksonville, in the Cascade Mountains. In the first installment of the article Abbott tells of his finding the bodies after others had given up the search. He tells of the burial of the bodies at Jacksonville and then says he proposed to take about 30 men and proceed to Klamath Lake to quiet any hostile feeling which might, he felt, develop among the Indians there, and to arrest any Indians he felt might be implicated.
The story continues:
A meeting was called to consider the matter, but it was thought too dangerous for less force than 100 men to go. I believed that if the force was so large they would be difficult if not impossible to restrain from acts of violence and that an Indian war, for which no cause existed, would result. With about 30 men there would be but little danger of such trouble. I reasoned that if the Indians had killed the Ledford party as an act of war, no effort to conceal the murder would have followed, that therefore the killing had been done for plunder and by a small band, without authority or the consent of the tribes. That if the proper course were pursued the guilty could be punished and peace maintained. Therefore I would not consent to take a force greater than I could control in the interest of peace.
Finally I declared that I had so much confidence in my knowledge of the Indian character and my own judgment that I would go alone if no others, not to exceed 30 in number, would take the risk, and closed by inviting as many as would volunteer to accompany me to step to the front.
Two men, I say MEN, T. J. Sutton and a Mr. Moore, responded, and they were all out of some 200 then present who had the courage to do so, so great was the danger apprehended.
The next day we made the necessary preparation and on the second day after the meeting, taking the Indians from the care of the sheriff, we set out for Klamath Lake, taking them with us. This time we went by the southern route and, passing the Cascade Mountains near Klamath River, made good time and arrived at the southern end of what we called Big Klamath Lake, now called Upper Klamath Lake, on the fifth day from Jacksonville.
Friendly Overtures.There was a considerable village of Indians there, and as we approached the warriors could be seen taking position on a ridge running in a southwesterly direction from the village, on which they had constructed defenses consisting of piles of rock. We went into camp about a mile from them, sent two or three Indians to let them know who and what we were and awaited the result. In due time our Indians returned accompanied by five or six from the village, who were delighted to know that we were friends. They also brought the most important and satisfactory intelligence, which removed all fear for our safety, if such fear found place in the minds of any of the party.
The substance of the information was that some renegade Molalla Indians had killed the five white men, and that the chief of the Klamath Lake Indians, named La Lake, a great friend of the whites, had killed three of the murderers and had taken their heads to Yreka.
When the Indians from the village had returned to their home, those that we had brought from Jacksonville let us fully into the secret of the whole matter. The murder was committed by five Molalla--renegades from their tribe, which was located on the Grand Ronde Reservation--and two Klamath Lake Indians, who were relatives of the chief medicine man of the Lake Indians, and that through his influence all of the tribe was pledged to secrecy as to them, and in fact to deny that any of their people would do such things.
This medicine man was called Cumtuckna and was a bad character, as will appear to the reader of this narrative. The Indians of Oregon, in the primitive state, believed that the medicine man, or medicine warrior, for that matter, could kill as well as cure, hence their influence caused by dread of their supposed powers was very great, and this superstition is not fully extinct yet. This statement will explain what might seem unaccountable in the conduct of these people in our intercourse with them. The information so fully given us by the Indians Jim and George was accompanied by a request that we should never let it be known that they told us. It was necessary for their safety; their lives were at stake.
The next day we crossed Klamath River where it flows from the lake and continued on our way around the eastern side of the lake, toward the principal village, the headquarters of the tribe, situated between the upper lake and the Klamath Marsh, just below the confluence of Sprague River. We camped on the lake and in the night were aroused by the tramp of a horse coming along the trail that we had followed.
The rider proved to be one of the trusted warriors who had gone to Yreka with the chief La Lake.
He reported that the people of Yreka had sent the chief and party with his heads to Jacksonville, that the people there had rejoiced over them, had made valuable presents to them and told of our venture, and that La Lake had sent him to travel night and day until he should overtake us for fear of trouble between us and some of the Indians, [and] that he was to see that we were properly received and cared for by the Indians.
Meet Chief La Lake.Early the next day we pitched our camp at the principal village and there awaited the coming of the chief, the Indians expressing the most friendly sentiments. Some two days passed before La Lake and party arrived, and it was with much pleasure to us that one of his party was a white man by the name of Callaway, who had gone with the chief from some point on the way to Yreka and to Jacksonville, and had returned to the lake to be present at our councils with the Indians. This arrival made our party of white men four strong, and so far as we knew we were the only white men on the east side of the Cascade Mountains south of The Dalles and were therefore completely isolated.
Proffer Heads as Peace Offering.While the chief La Lake and his men were killing the three Molallas whose heads were taken as a peace offering to the whites, one of his warriors was mortally wounded and died of his wounds before the return of the chief, and preparations for the funeral were in progress. The custom of these people was to cremate their dead or at least such as fell in battle; therefore we had an opportunity to witness the unusual spectacle of burning the body, with the hideously savage ceremony pertaining to such funerals among the Klamath Lake Indians.
Old Cumtuckna, "medicine man," priest, wizard, sorcerer or whatever he was or claimed to be, was in his glory. He conducted the ceremonies, which seemed congenial to his nature, therefore pleasant. Before the funeral there were 15 or 20, possibly more, such piles--a cemetery. I had noticed a mysterious council pile, nearly the shape of an eastern haystack, covered with rush mat such as are worn by squaws and are commonly in use as carpets and for bedding by the Indians. This pile was pulled down and opened out until only about two feet high and 12 feet in diameter of surface fuel of the most inflammable kind, mostly dry pitch pine, placed thereon to about 16 inches in depth, the body on that, the treasures, arms and so forth of the deceased with the body; more fuel, two horses slain and put in the pile; more fuel, and the whole set to burning, while the chanting and mourning, led by Cumtuckna, was kept up until the whole pile of combustibles was consumed, and through most of the night. When cool enough the pile was carefully rearranged, covered as before and prepared to await the next victim. The pile was composed of earth, wood ashes and incinerated bones of dead Indians and their horses, pieces of guns, pots, pans and scraps of clothing, beads and other debris, only partially burned.
(To be continued.)
Idaho Statesman, Boise, June 24, 1928, page B2
Three Idaho Men Display Rare Courage in Danger
George H. Abbott Tells of Interview with Murderous Indians
Experienced by Himself and Two Companions in Early
Days in Oregon; Friendly Indians Come to Aid
The concluding installment of the story of George H. Abbott, Oregon Indian agent in the '50s, which has been published in two former installments of the pioneer department of the Statesman, is an exciting story of an experience with murderous Indians participated in by two other former Idaho citizens, whom Abbott designates as "Caliway" (one wonders if he does not mean Calloway) of Caldwell [probably either Thomas Henry Callaway or Abner Early Callaway], and Sutton of Boise City.
In the previous stories Abbott tells of discovering the murdered bodies of a party of whites which left Jacksonville, and of the secret information given two friendly Indians, Jim and George, of the real culprits, while Abbott was on a twofold mission, to acquaint the Oregon Indian tribes, including "Cumtuckna," a famous medicine man, of the government's desire to place them on a reservation and to throw the land open to settlement by the whites, and also to arrest the two Indian murderers.
His diplomacy in the matter is seen in the development of the story which follows his description of an Indian cremation ceremony:
After the funeral our business was taken up in earnest, prominent Indians from the Klamath Lake country but one being present. The council lasted nearly three days, the Indians being exceedingly well pleased at the prospect of being placed on a reservation under the care of the government and the opening of the country to white settlement.
The general business of my visit to them, under my official instructions, was readily and pleasantly accomplished, but the matter of the participation of two members of the tribe in the murder of the Ledford party, a very important addition to my official business, was not so easily disposed of. I commended their action toward the Molallas, but told them that I knew that two of their people had taken an active part in the murder, which they denied most solemnly, as they had agreed to do. I insisted and told them that the law required them to deliver the murderers to the whites to be dealt with as white murderers were treated for such crimes. Thus matters went from day to day, I accusing and they denying. They demanded: whence my information?
Great Spirit Reveals.I replied that the Great Spirit revealed the facts to me, and also led me to find the murdered men, though carefully concealed. This evidently impressed many of them, but Cumtuckna would head off in a weak denial. Finally on the last day of the council, after having discussed the propriety of such proceeding with men of my party, and being as well prepared as possible for any emergency, I determined to point out the individuals accused. They had been made known to me by Jim and George, two of the Indians whom we had brought from Jacksonville. I thought this a dangerous procedure, especially as one of them, known as Skookum John, always carried his rifle in our presence, and when in council always held the rifle across his knees, as he squatted in the circle around the council fire. But believing it to be my duty to make the accusation personal, in order that innocent Indians would have no cause to fear for themselves personally, I, at the proper time, said:
"I know and can point out the two guilty men," and being challenged by Cumtuckna to do so, I pointed to Skookum John, saying, "There is one of them," and "there is the other," pointing to the other accused man.
This, as I had expected, created a profound sensation. Skookum John rose to his feet, shouldered his rifle and left, followed by his partner in crime, who was his brother. Cumtuckna and a few others denied the charge, but not with much decision or energy. The council dissolved without ceremony, while I announced my intention to start on the following morning to see the absent band under War Chief George, some 35 miles up Sprague River.
Admits Indian's Guilt.La Lake said that he, with some of his men, would go with us. Accordingly we, with some six or eight of La Lake's men, were on the way up Sprague River early on the day appointed, and when out some 10 miles, and when the chief and I were out of hearing of others, he said:
"Mr. Abbott, I am ashamed."
My reply was: "Yes, I suppose you are."
"What you said about two of our people taking part in the murder of the white men was true, and the two that you pointed out were the guilty men, but I was compelled to deny it and I am ashamed of it.
"How you got the information I don't know, but you are right about it, and if we induce Chief George to assist us, we will arrest the murderers and you can take them to Jacksonville for punishment, but you seem to know much about Indian customs, and therefore you know the powers exercised by the medicine men and the dread of them by the Indians; therefore you can understand that we may not be able to enlist Chief George in our enterprise.
"The two murderers are near relatives of our great medicine man, Cumtuckna, and he will use all means to shield them."
He further said that without the cooperation of Chief George, he--La Lake--was helpless. I assured him that I fully understood and appreciated his position, and did not blame him for what had passed, and that if we failed to obtain assistance from George, the arrest of the two murderers would have to be postponed to a future and more favorable time.
Refuse to Arrest Murderers.Our business with Chief George and his band concerning the opening of the country to settlement, placing the Indians on a reservation, etc., was, like that with the other bands, very pleasant and satisfactory, but, though they were willing that the two murderers should be arrested and punished, they declined to take part in making the arrest, pleading in justification that it would lead to bloodshed among themselves and to a feud that would divide the tribes for a generation or more.
That settled it, and we had no further business to detain us longer than until the following morning, when we would start on our return to Jacksonville.
About 5 o'clock in the evening a party of mounted Indians were observed coming over the trail that we had traveled in coming, and we soon recognized Cumtuckna, the two murderers, and about six more of their relatives and adherents.
I, suspecting them of intended treachery and foul play, directed the three white men to spread out their bedding near some large pine trees, some 10 steps from our campfire, to place their rifles under the edge of their blankets so that they could bring them into instant use, keep their revolvers where their hands could find them readily, to lie down on their blankets and watch and await developments. I would receive the delegation and entertain them as if their visit was the most natural event.
Visitors Arrive.When the Indians had secured their horses and presented themselves in camp, I invited Cumtuckna to a seat beside me on a large pine log near the fire, and on the side opposite to where my men were quietly resting on their beds. This brought the other members of the band directly between me and my men. Each of the Indians, Cumtuckna excepted, held blankets around their bodies up to their necks, concealing such arms as they might carry.
This being the usual trick among Indians when a surprise was intended served only to confirm our belief in the true object of their visit, that is, that they hoped to catch us off guard, unsuspecting, and to kill us all, the motive being to remove all evidence of the guilt of two of their number, they probably thinking that no other white men had knowledge of the facts, that we only could convict them or expose them, therefore our removal meant safety for them.
When they got into our camp they found me whittling a pine stick with a large bowie knife, and while talking to them about the reservation business, which was the subject of conversation for the evening, that knife was continually in my hand, while the revolvers of our whole party were in [a] most convenient position.
One of Chief La Lake's men came up soon after the arrival of the Cumtuckna party and took position directly behind me and Cumtuckna. He was arrayed as the others were, covered with a blanket to the chin. Thus we continued to talk, that is, I and Cumtuckna, everybody else being silent, until about 9 o'clock at night, when the Indians withdrew. Then La Lake's man came into the light of the fire, opened his blanket and showed a pistol with the remark, "Cumtuckna, damn, shoot him," showing that he suspected treachery as we did, and that he was there to aid us. This was the most trying ordeal that I have ever had to pass through.
Ready for Attack.To feel certain that this desperate band was watching to find us careless and for a moment off our guard, to throw aside their blankets and with pistols and knives hidden thereunder to murder us like so many coyotes.
My official duty restrained me from any action until attacked, self-defense alone being permitted us; otherwise I believe that I would have "opened the ball" by driving my bowie knife through old Cumtuckna, as I intended to do if they began the fight. There was but little sleep in our camp that night, for we looked for them to try to crawl in and try that method to surprise and murder us. We made such arrangements that, had they come, they would have been surprised. We all rested--I won't say slept--together, with the understanding that if they came no noise or movements on our part should be made until we could give them a volley.
About midnight we could hear horses approaching at a lively gait, and we knew by the sound that there was only two. When near, one of the riders hailed us. I recognized the voice of our friend, Indian Jim, and answered him. The two turned their horses out to graze and came to where we lay. It was Jim and George whom we had left at the chief village, 35 miles away. They, in suppressed tones of voice, inquired if Cumtuckna had been there, being answered in the affirmative. They told us that as night was setting in the squaws of Cumtuckna's part of the village began to talk of his intention to kill us that night, that Jim and George left the village slyly and unseen, caught their horses and hastened to warn us, if possible to do so in time to avert our doom. They also joined us under the blankets with the assurance that they would help us in case we were attacked. They had ridden 35 miles between 8 o'clock and 12, or in four hours. At daylight nothing could be seen of Cumtuckna's party, neither men nor horses. During the night they had quietly stolen away.
We started on our return to Jacksonville, after taking leave of our friends, Jim, George, La Lake and his band. We reached Jacksonville in due time without further adventure.
In conclusion I wish to bear witness to the valor and loyalty of my comrades on that expedition. No braver men ever lived than they proved to be.
No three men were ever placed in a more trying position than they were and lived to get out of it with more credit. Their patience was equal to their courage. There was no complaints, no expressions of fear or uncertainty. They were there to do their duty at any risk, and it is a great pleasure to me to know that two of them are living, Mr. Caliway at Caldwell, and Sutton at Boise.
I have had many remarkable adventures in the early days of the Pacific Coast, but I have always considered this Klamath Lake experience among the most trying. That we three who had these experiences so many years ago should be living this month of January, in the year of our Lord 1896, in the same state, too, is to me cause for rejoicing.
Let us hope that we may meet again in the near future and before passing to the great hereafter.
GEORGE H. ABBOTT.
Idaho Statesman, Boise, July 1, 1928, page B2
Oregon Man's Letter Throws New Light on the Death of Grimes
Refuses to Believe Early Basin Prospector Was Murdered by Comrades.
WHOLE PARTY SCATTERED AND NONE GOT BENEFIT
BAKER, Ore.--Editor Statesman, Boise, Ida. Dear Sir: Some time last summer I cut from your Sunday paper a photo of a pioneer's grave on Grimes Creek--that of George Grimes. I now have before me your Sunday paper of November 5, in which there is an account of Mr. Grimes by a Mr. Wilson, who seems to believe Grimes was murdered. His account and information as to Grimes would seem to be from the time of finding the body of Grimes in December, some four months after he was killed. Now I can believe that he found Grimes' body and that Grimes was dressed and shot in the back, but that he was murdered by anyone of his party I do not believe.
Matters of history as important as the discovery of mines such as Boise Basin mines should be as correct and truthful as it is possible to make them. I was in a position to know much about what occurred in the mines in 1862. Our firm, Knight, Abbott & Packwood, had a store at Auburn, in Baker County, Ore., and we did the outfitting for and were interested directly or indirectly with nearly all the prospecting parties, as Auburn was the outfitting point or starting point. What I know of Grimes is hardly hearsay, but firsthand knowledge.
Independence Camp Started.In June or early in July we sent out a prospecting party having 12 interests, of which Abbott and I took two shares. They left Auburn and prospected south and westerly. On July 4 they struck a fine prospect on Granite Creek, about 45 miles from Auburn. The first gold found was panned by Jack Long, a packer whom I knew when he was working for the United States on Siletz Reservation in 1857. Twelve claims were located and a town called Independence laid out. It was so named on account of the gold being found on Independence Day. Abbott and I were given $2000 for our shares. It is surprising and almost beyond belief now to think back how quickly all such news traveled at that day, without roads, stages or telegraphs. But so it was, and long before July was gone quite a population and flourishing mining camp was in bloom at Granite Creek.
Grimes was one of them. I do not remember him personally, although I have no doubt I met him at Auburn, but I have his story from John Wilson. Wilson was with Grimes at Granite Creek, as I remember. He said that when Grimes crossed the plains in the 'Fifties he pointed out the range of mountains on the right, east of the Boise Valley, and said he believed rich gold mines lay back of those mountains. This was long before gold was found in eastern Oregon or Idaho. He went on down to Willamette Valley and had lived about Oregon City. He was a carpenter.
Grimes Goes to Mines.He was not a miner, but when gold was discovered and being worked here in Eastern Oregon, he pulled out for the mines and came direct to Auburn. From there he went over to the new find at Granite Creek, but he was not satisfied, Wilson said, and kept up his talk about the mountains he saw when crossing the plains, and which he believed were full of gold, and his determination to go and prospect them.
He finally got seven men to go with him. Wilson was one of them. They outfitted at Auburn about the last of July or early in August. From there they followed Grimes' lead.
After getting over to Grimes Creek they camped and looked around a little. They went up on a bar or bench from the creek in the pine timber (and the picture you have of a pioneer's grave, Grimes', is exactly as described to me by Wilson). They sank a prospect hole, I think about 10 or 12 feet deep, or it may have been less. They found a prospect which they believed would pay. It was now a Sunday, and I have no doubt they washed up and put on clean clothes for Sunday.
Grimes Takes a Walk.About noon, or a little after, Wilson said Grimes wanted to see about something at the prospect hole and started from camp to go up on the bar. From what Wilson said I do not believe they were doing any work that day, or intended to do any. They were just taking a look around, as miners often do of a Sunday, and figure out what to do next week--probably look over ground they intended to locate. And it being the discovery hole or shaft, by all miners' rules at that time, giving two claims for discovery, Grimes may have wanted to look it over again (as I do not remember Wilson saying a word about location of claims) before putting up notices and staking claims. Grimes lit out for the prospect shaft soon after. Some of the others started out, and when they had gotten on the edge of the bar they heard a shot just ahead of them and looked up and saw two Indians skulking and running in the pine timber above and about opposite the prospect hole. There were two Indians, and I think he said they only saw one rifle.
They hurried up to the prospect hole to find Grimes, believing the shot was fired at him by the Indians. When they got up there they found Grimes dead, and I think, from what Wilson said, he was stooping over doing something, and I have no doubt was shot in the back. He was dead and there is no reason to believe he saw the Indians, from what Wilson said. They had seen no Indians before this or any signs of Indians, so were careless in going around. He said they buried Grimes, dressed as he was, in the prospect hole he had located and helped to dig, and that night or early next morning they broke camp and got away.
Never Went Back.I do not believe they ever made a location. If so, Wilson, for one, never went back, in my opinion, for he soon after was connected with Grenzeback of The Dalles in mining operations in Owyhee County, for we had one order on them for 1432 pounds of supplies from our store at Boonville. I do not believe they ever made any locations, or looked up any claims at that time or did anything to organize a mining district. They called it Grimes Creek because he led them to it and was killed and buried there. They left and each one went his way. There was nothing to hold them together. They told the story of the find, and while the prospect was fairly good, it was largely exaggerated. This was, I believe, about the 11th of August 1862.
The news soon reached Auburn, Florence and other camps. By September there were parties from Florence and other northern camps, Marion Moore, Colonel Fogus and Captain Relf Bledsoe. A little later Moore's Creek was found--Idaho Basin. I outfitted and was one of a company of eight from Auburn. Captain Crouch of Roseburg was at the head. We went up in September or early in October and located eight claims on Moore's Creek, eight claims on Buena Vista Bar, eight Hill claims and water rights from Moore's Creek. We came back to Auburn in November. It was said a miners' meeting had been held and claims laid over until March (a custom among miners declaring claims laid over--not jumpable except in the working season). Captain Crouch said he had to go down for the winter to Roseburg and all were to be on hand in March. I told them it was a mistake to do so, that a regiment of soldiers could not, in my belief, put us in possession of our claims next March. In February 1862 I sent a man to look after my claims. All our claims were gone, and our locations, I have been told, were among the best on Moore's Creek and Buena Vista Bar.
Thinks Death Caused Rush.As to Grimes having been murdered by any of his comrades, I do not believe it for a moment. I can hardly conceive such a thing happening, from what Wilson told me, nor can I conceive of any motive. Who could benefit by it? The party was the same as other parties prospecting for mines. No, Grimes had an idea, a belief, or whatever we may call it, that there were rich mines in the mountains. He had that idea for years, and when the time came that he could do so, he followed his idea out, and in doing so he lost his life, and that caused greater excitement than finding the gold.
The two combined caused a rush to that country that resulted in finding one of the richest placer mining districts in Idaho, and while they would have no doubt been found later on, I do think his name should stand out prominently in Idaho history and a monument should be erected to his memory, designating him as the discoverer of the Boise Basin mines, as it is due solely to him. A small amount would do it, and it should be in a place like that shown in your photo of a pioneer's grave (Grimes', for it is according to and agrees in detail with the account give me by one of the men who helped bury him).
Miners Respected Rights.Miners as a rule in the early days had a very great respect and regard for rights of discoverers, and it may have been that when Grimes Creek was made a mining district and laws passed, some provision was made to protect Grimes' rights. As to Grimes, Mr. Wilson said he was a common man, a carpenter, and was wholly carried away with the idea of finding gold in the mountains to the right and east of Boise Valley--when you were traveling west. He had that idea for years, and it was proved correct, although he only lived to know that his idea bade fair to prove correct, and that his life was a forfeit in doing so.
I think his discovery and death hastened, possibly by years, the discovery of mines that have yielded more than $100,000,000 up to this time, and I think his memory should be, and no doubt will be, preserved and honored in Idaho history. And you could claim for Grimes that he:
"Belonged to the legion that never were listed,
They carried no banner nor crest;
But, split in a thousand detachments,
Were breaking the way for the rest."
Yours very respectfully,P.S.--I knew of your old-time Boise residents, Wilson, George and Mark Ainslie, Jacobs, Bilike, B. M. Durrell and Moore, Captain Bledsoe, James A. Pinney, George H. Abbott, Soldier, and all over the divide, also my old friend, Judge Kelley, former owner of the Statesman. Hon. John Hailey, my old friend since 1854, is still with us, but it is sad to think back of the friends now no more.
WM. H. PACKWOOD, SR.
Idaho Statesman, Boise, December 31, 1916, page 4
As an evidence of the steady growth of Camas Prairie in population, it is stated on good authority that over one hundred actual settlers are now located on Soldier Creek, who intend to pass the winter there. Last winter the following were the only parties who remained there: J. S. Peck, the oldest settler there; Messrs. Valden, Sampson, Waite, Miller, Kellogg, Bennett, Clark and George H. Abbott, all being heads of families except Clark and Bennett.
"Territorial News," Blackfoot Register, Blackfoot, Idaho, September 1, 1883, page 3
Grasshoppers in Idaho.
Hailey News-Miner, 20th: Ex-County Commissioner George H. Abbott was in from Soldier yesterday. He says that the grasshoppers have destroyed his entire crop of hay, grain and vegetables, and he is not the only sufferer. Almost the whole prairie has already been devastated, and what has not undoubtedly will be. The grasshoppers are yet unable to fly, but are traveling in a northeasterly direction, devouring everything before them. They have got as far as Crichton, and will probably make a clean sweep of that place.
Butte Semi-Weekly Miner, Butte, Montana, June 29, 1889, page 3
Captain Bledsoe received a dispatch yesterday from George. H. Abbott, who lives on Big Camas, stating that an operation had been performed on his daughter at Hailey for appendicitis and she was not expected to live. Mr. Abbott has a son at Sheep Creek, and he wished him sent for. The captain dispatched his son after the young man. He is expected to get back here in time to catch today's train.
"Local Brevities," Idaho Statesman, Boise, February 4, 1898, page 6
The Hailey Times says: Captain Bledsoe arrived today from Boise. He came by way of Corral, where his son Relf was married yesterday to Miss Mary Edna, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George H. Abbott. The Rev. I. T. Osborn performed the ceremony.
"Local Brevities," Idaho Statesman, Boise, June 16, 1900, page 8
Mr. and Mrs. George H. Abbott and youngest daughter are in the city from Camas Prairie. They are here to witness the graduation of Miss Lucy Abbott at St. Margaret's Academy. Mr. and Mrs. Abbott are among the old pioneers of Idaho. Mr. Abbott visited Idaho City in 1864, when the first placer mining excitement was on.
"Personal Mention," Idaho Statesman, Boise, June 11, 1901, page 5
Pensions have been granted as follows: . . . George H. Abbott, Soldier, $8. . . .
"Pensions and Post Offices," Idaho Statesman, Boise, November 2, 1902, page 12
DEATH OF MRS. R. J. BLEDSOE
Daughter-in-Law of Captain Bledsoe a Victim of Spotted Fever.
Edna Mary Bledsoe, the wife of R. J. Bledsoe and daughter-in-law of Relf Bledsoe of Boise, died suddenly yesterday morning near Mountain Home. She had been suffering from spotted fever but was thought to be recovering when she was seized with a fatal relapse.
Mrs. Bledsoe, who had been married four years and left no children, was the daughter of George. H. Abbott of Soldier and was highly esteemed by many friends.
The body was taken to Soldier last night, and the funeral will be held there tomorrow.
Idaho Statesman, Boise, May 13, 1904, page 4
He Crossed the Plains from the Buckeye State in 1849.
The editor of this department regrets that the portraits of Mr. and Mrs. George H. Abbott, which were sent us for publication, could not be reproduced, owing to their stained and worn condition. They were taken more than 40 years ago, and the colors have so faded and the background become so yellow that the likenesses are very indistinct. The picture of Mrs. Abbott is particularly interesting, being taken at a period when it was the vogue to wear the coiffure in long, tight cluster curls. The dress is a basque of Puritan-like severity relieved only by a white ruching at the neck.
Mr. and Mrs. Abbott, who now reside at Camas Prairie, are among the earliest pioneers. Mr. Abbott, who was born at Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1829, crossed the plains in 1849 as a noncommissioned officer of Company "H," regiment of mounted rifles, U.S.A. In 1851 he was transferred to the First Dragoons, Company "C," and served in some very interesting Indian warfare under Captain A. J. Smith in 1851. He assisted both the regular army and the Oregon volunteers in their effort to break the power of the hostile Indians. In 1856 he was appointed Indian agent at Yaquina Bay, serving in this capacity at Klamath Lake, Warm Springs Reservation and Umatilla Reservation.
In the spring of '63 he moved to Idaho City and later to Boonville, near where Silver City is now located, where he engaged in the mercantile business. In 1864 he returned to the East to visit relatives. While east he married Miss Charlotte M. Jones of Thompsontown, Pa. He did not return to Idaho again until 1882, when he settled in his present home.
Idaho Statesman, Boise, February 21, 1909, page B4
Soldier, Idaho Jan. 10th 1896.Editor Port Orford Tribune:
I have before me a copy of the Tribune of December 24th last, sent me by a friend in your county, containing an article about Grandpa Crook, as he is called, or T. W. Crook, and the battle of Pistol Creek, with the request that I write you a true account of said battle, and events leading up to it.
If you will kindly find space in your columns, it will give me--and many of your readers--much pleasure to correct, in the interest of true history, the mistakes of your Gold Beach correspondent, "Zip," in relation to the matters pertaining to said battle:
On the night of Feb. 22, 1856, the people of Gold Beach and vicinity held a social dance, when the Indians of lower Rogue River and the coast, reinforced by Indians from Rogue River Valley, and led by Eneas, or Enos, as he was sometimes called, attacked the settlement at several points, and the work of death continued all night and part of the next day. Twenty-three men and children of the whites were killed, and two women captured and carried off by the Indians, while the survivors gathered at a partially built fort, north of the mouth of Rogue River about one and a half miles.
The settlement being abandoned, it was plundered and all houses and other improvements burnt by the Indians. The Indian Eneas was a native of Red River of the North, and had been in government service, first with Captain--afterward General--Fremont, and later was often employed by officers of the army as guide and scout, and came to the coast with Capt. Ben Wright. Among the killed were Pat McCullough, Barney Castle, McCluskey and a German named Braumse, or Brown, as he was generally called--friends and comrades of mine, crossed the plains with me, soldiers in the Mounted Rifle Regiment U.S.A., in 1849, and served with me in Capt. A. J. Smith's company of dragoons at Fort Orford.
When the outbreak occurred I was keeping a public house on the pack trail between Crescent City and Illinois Valley. The late Capt. Tichenor, of Port Orford, brought news of the outbreak to Crescent City by schooner, and the express carrier gave me information on the third day after the massacre. I started for Crescent City immediately to raise a company for service in the field against the Indians.
To the best of my memory I arrived in Crescent City the evening of Feb. 27th, and found the people greatly excited and apprehensive. Report had reached them that the hostiles were coming in great numbers, and they expected to be attacked at any time. A meeting was called and met, and was attended by all the men except those on guard around the town. Capt. Tichenor was there, and learning from me what I wished to do, addressed the meeting in favor of organizing a company to take the field, and recommending me as a competent leader. Public sentiment was against such action, and I only got eight or ten men to volunteer to go. Supplies of ammunition were refused, as it was deemed necessary for the defense of the town, but we obtained a small supply.
The next day we started north, accompanied by some of the settlers of Smith River Valley, who had fled to town on the first report of the uprising.
On the way we found some eight or ten men at a house in Smith River Valley, among them Kirby Miller, known to many as "Buck" Miller, John Leverton and, I think, T. W. Crook. They all joined our party, and we continued our march to near Winchuck Creek, where we found Tom Van Pelt, Jim Williams and John Lake forted up in a cabin, around which they had constructed a stockade of timbers. Our whole party numbered twenty-two, and we organized. I was elected captain, Mr Crook 1st lieutenant, and with this organization we made a night march the same night against the hostiles reported by Van Pelt as camped on the Chetco River, about six miles up from the mouth. The night was dark, the timber and underbrush thick, but under the guidance of Van Pelt we reached the place before daylight and prepared to attack as soon as tight enough to do so. We were disappointed--the Indians were gone.
After destroying some canoes and other Indian valuables we put a canoe loaded with six or eight men across the Chetco, with them I think, Mr. Crook, and while awaiting on the bank the return of the canoe the Indians opened fire on us across the river from a point about one hundred yards below where Crook and party had landed. In response to orders the party on the north side deployed as skirmishers to engage the Indians, but the latter retreated up the mountain. We followed them--not on their trail, but by another ridge--until about half way up, and the fog lifting we discovered the Indian camp. Dividing the party equally between myself and Crook I sent him around so as to get north of the Indian camp, and after waiting concealed long enough my party moved on under cover of hills and fog until near the Indians, when we heard firing. We charged, but soon saw the Indians about 50 strong running in our direction, when we all lay down to avoid observation. Crook had met the Indians going north and opened on them. The surprise was complete, and the Indians retreated in our direction and would probably have run quite on us, but Van Pelt, who was excitable, gave a great yell, when the surprised Indians bunched up and stopped. We opened fire on them, and they scattered in all directions into the timbered canyons. In all some five or six Indians were killed. We captured their camp, some women and children and all the stock of horses, mules, etc., that they had gotten from the settlers. We then returned to the stockade. I sent a letter by courier to Crescent City, and the Crescent City Herald newspaper printed my report in an extra, with the result that people then sent us a fine stock of ammunition, provisions, clothing, and enough recruits to bring our force up to 31 men. Among the recruits was Prof. Ramsey, an excellent and intelligent gentleman, brave soldier and able surgeon and physician, who from that time to the end of the war was our surgeon.
Our company being stronger we made the organization more perfect by the election of sergeants, of whom Buck Miller was one.
We scoured the country as far north as Whale's Head, and being convinced that the hostiles had gone north, the question of proceeding to Rogue River was discussed and decided in the affirmative.
About this time we learned of the arrival of a force of U.S. regular troops at Crescent City, who were said to be en route to Gold Beach.
On the 18th of March we moved via Whale's Head, and halted in the evening long enough to get supper and refresh our animals, when we packed up about dark and continued our march to Pistol Creek by night, hoping to surprise an outpost of the enemy. We reached the immediate vicinity of the creek before daylight, and finding no Indians on the south side were going into camp, when one of their scouts appeared on the north side, saw us and started on the run north. With about ten or twelve men I followed in that direction, and discovered the enemy in position. By our action we drew them out, pretending to retreat, but in fact only returning to the main body. They followed us, most of our party moving slowly and taking cover behind drift logs, we annoyed them so much by our fire that they soon gave up the pursuit. Some of the men, those in advance, become a little panicky, when Buck Miller, meeting them, coolly said, "What's the matter, boys? They are only Indians."
All of the first day‘s fighting was mere long-range intermittent firing by the Indians, answered by some of our men when they got too bold.
Early in the afternoon squads of Indians of from twenty to about fifty began to come from Rogue River, distant about twelve miles, and continued to come until we were quite certain there was not less than 300 of such reinforcements to the enemy. Our company carried drift logs from the beach to the highest sand hill in the vicinity and built breastworks about four feet high, got water, fuel and all of our supplies, and prepared to hold out indefinitely, or until the arrival of the regulars, to the commander of whom I sent a courier reporting our condition and requesting a little haste on their part.
About an hour before sunset nearly the entire force of Indians began to cross the creek at the mouth, which brought them onto a point of smooth sand without any cover, with the creek on one side and the ocean on the other. Fearing for the steadiness of some of our men, those who were little used to Indian warfare, should the Indians make a determined assault on our works, and knowing that a panic would be fatal to many if not all of our party, I called for ten volunteers to go with me and meet the enemy on the point of sand referred to. My call was responded to by ten of the most experienced. The names of nine
of the ten should be immortal, should have a place in history as long as deeds of heroism shall inspire others to like deeds, but I can name only about half of them from memory, and I am writing from memory; therefore I will only name Buck Miller and Tom Van Pelt, and them only because of their special importance as part of this narrative. One of the ten weakened and withdrew to the fort before the Indians charged us. Lieut. Crook was sent with two men to a point whence the creek could be seen for nearly a quarter of a mile, in order to prevent any party of Indians crossing, or to report such crossing to us if they failed to stop it, for the reason that the Indians might so cross and passing around the fort and behind sand ridges and along the beach attack us in the rear.
Our squad of eleven all told took position about 150 yards from the fort directly in front of the main body of the Indians, with the creek on our right and the surf of the sea on our left. A party of Indians took position on a high point covered with brush on the opposite side of the creek, nearly 200 yards distant, and opened on us with rifles. This was a very trying ordeal. We could not return the fire with any hope of success. It was too much for one of our number, who shall be nameless, although I remember his name, and am not likely to ever forget it, who obtained permission to retire a short distance to watch that no Indians approached us from the rear, promising to return in time to take his place when fighting should begin. He went to the fort and reported to the men there, who were commanded by a sergeant, that ours was the most foolhardy action possible, and that we would probably be "wiped out."
The main body of the enemy waited until dark, probably expecting us to be exterminated by rifle practice from over the creek--when the whole force moved on to the attack, led by three mounted chiefs. They came on very slowly, though active in jumping from side to side and yelling like demons. Their formation covered the point of sand from creek to ocean, and was some seventy yards deep. There was full three hundred of them against ten of us, and, although we did not know it at the time, were led by Eneas in person. Every man of our party was fully instructed how to operate, and no firing on our part was to begin until the word, and that was not to be given until the front of the enemy was within forty yards of our line. We lay flat on the sand, so as to be less exposed, and Tom Van Pelt had a small block of wood to rest his rifle on. When the three mounted chiefs were about sixty yards distant Tom fired in spite of orders, and his shot was probably the most effective of any fired during the war. The chief in the center between the other two fell from his horse; the others dismounted; the fallen chief was hurriedly lifted to the saddle, held there and all three horses taken to the rear. A few minutes passed thus and with fresh yells on they came; the order to commence firing being given by me when less than forty yards separated them from us.
We were all hunters and all expert with both rifle and revolver, cool and confident, and nearly every shot took effect, so that by the time our revolvers were empty some forty of the enemy lay dead or badly wounded in front of us, and the attacking force was in full retreat, and stood not on the order of their going. During this contest I saw the muzzles of revolvers, one in a white man's hands and one in that of an Indian, crossed, or passing each other, so close was the hand to hand fighting. At each explosion of a white man's pistol the Indian fell, but only one white man was hit, and that only a slight flesh wound of the right arm. I gave the order to rally to the fort, for it was necessary to reload, and I supposed that all were going in obedience to the order, for we had a full understanding on the subject, when two shots were fired on the right of our line. I and those near me ran in that direction, when we found two men dragging Buck Miller by the arms toward the fort. I directed four men to lift him and hasten to the fort, while I would remain in the rear to prevent interference by the Indians. Miller had stopped to shoot an Indian that he could see crawling over the sand, and was shot in turn by another Indian, a wounded one. The bullet struck Miller near the top of the breastbone, cut the windpipe, and the blood from the wound passed down into the lings. He lived, after being taken to the fort and being ministered to by Prof. Ramsey, about 45 minutes, during all of which time he encouraged the command, for the Indians had rallied and were engaged in trying to penetrate our position and get at our animals. I heard him say, "Shoot low, men; remember you are shooting by moonlight. Don't draw higher than the knees." At another time, after several shots had been fired in quick succession, he called out, "That is right! Give it to them." He called me to him and requested me to use my authority against killing old men, women and children. This in a voice strong enough for many of the men to hear him. He knew that I was opposed to such savage acts, and that I held in abhorrence scalping as well, and his request was regarded as a sacred legacy by the men of the company--such barbarity was never permitted in our company during the war. The fighting continued intermittently, during the night and as daylight appeared was vigorously renewed, the Indians having placed logs on the tops of sand ridges within easy range, and shooting through the sand under the logs. Our marksmen were too good for the Indians, and they soon found it unhealthy to look through a hole. About 5 o’clock p.m. the Indians withdrew entirely, but we continued inside the fort until the arrival of the regulars, about 5 p.m., about as weary a company of men as is ever seen, having marched all day and all night to get there, fought and built defenses all day, fought all night and until 3 o'clock in the afternoon--all without sleep--and the regulars were as welcome as the flowers of May ever were to mortal eye. Buck Miller was buried with martial honors, in a hole that had at some time been excavated by the Indians while constructing a house, a fire was built over the grave and everything done to conceal the grave that we could do, so that the Indians would not find it and disinter the body.
Such was the battle of Pistol Creek, in many ways the most remarkable, hotly contested, and in effect the most important of any battle of the war of 1855-6. Remarkable for the disparity of the numbers engaged and losses sustained, the Indian loss being as I believed then, and learned from the Indians afterward, was about fifty killed and many wounded. It was vastly important because it was the first check in the success of the Indians from the outbreak, and that by such an insignificantly small number of whites that during the first day of the fight they would call some of us by name and tell us how they intended to cut us up in the night. Again, their leader and organizer, Eneas, was entirely disabled by Tom Van Pelt's shot, while leading the Indians in the charge on horseback. His thigh bone was shattered, and he was utterly helpless during the war, and most remarkable of all, he crawled to the coast reservation at Salmon River, with that broken thigh bone, after the Indiana had been conquered and removed to the reservation (some 200 miles from Rogue River). He was there arrested and finally taken to Port Orford, and I am told that he was hung on Battle Rock.
It remains only to say that each man of the company furnished his own arms and equipment, while commissary stores and ammunition, together with some clothing was furnished by the people of Crescent City, or members of the company. Medical and surgical supplies by Prof. Ramsey.
George H. AbbottPort Orford Tribune, circa January 10, 1896
Narrative of the Campaign at Gold Beach
From an extra of the Crescent City Herald of the 17th of April, we copy this readable account of the recent fighting at Gold Beach. The letter conveys a good idea of Indian fighting, and will repay perusal:
Fort Miner, April 6, 1856.We have been fighting. I shall begin as early as the 17th of last month (March), for then we had determined to outwit the Pistol Indians by a night march, in order to come near them unprepared next morning. We started from Sun Ranch Creek in the morning, and rested on a grassy hillside during most of the day, and started as night set in. We traveled in perfect silence. We reached Pistol River about night, and our captain, along with one his soldiers, went to reconnoiter. They started an Indian sentinel among the sandbanks at the river's mouth. This blew up the whole of our secrecy. The frightened sentinel, with his dog, plunged into the river, swam across, and all was quiet again. We slept upon our arms, and just as the sun, with his broom, began to sweep the darkness from the east, we started, some on foot and some on horseback, forded the river easily, as the tide was low, and went to the Pistol River rancherias. Not a vestige of the Indians was visible. We set fire to the houses, which contained a good deal of provisions, consisting of dried fish, whale oil, acorns &c.
Scarcely were they gone when a vast number of our red enemies came through a kind of gap in the upper ridges of hills. I gave the alarm, and when the boys came up not one redskin was to be seen. They quickly, however, reappeared again. The morning was foggy, and although they stood and displayed their force on the ridge, we could not ascertain their number, but we saw that it far surpassed ours. The Diggers gathered into a solid mass, and we could see strings of them running back over the ridge, to intercept, as I supposed, our retreat, should we attempt one. Then commenced a movement which none of us who were present will easily forget. An Indian started from the crowd, and moved a few paces slowly; he then began to run; the rest followed his example, until there was a running string of them from where they started, stretching down almost to us; the distance was, perhaps, something less than three-quarters of a mile. I stood until I counted one hundred and sixty of them, as they detached themselves from the original mass, and there still remained a formidable number that I could not count. I had now to engage in something more active.
We numbered in all thirty-one men, and we had left three beyond the river with our animals. Our boys barely took the bush, and the firing at once commenced. The Indians fired first, and came in such crowds that we were compelled to seek the beach. When we came there, we saw the whole bluff banks that skirts the beach covered up to the river with our foes. Those behind us came bodily into open ground and fairly chased us; we made for our camp, retreating in tolerable order; balls were seen plowing the sand in every direction. I was a good mark, for I rode a white horse, and one ball fell among my horse's feet; I turned, galloped back a few paces and fired at the insulting, yelling rascal in advance of the rest. He fell, rose, and fell again and began to kick. This, I think was the first Digger killed. We recrossed the river in safety and resolved to defend the sand hills on the south side of the mouth, until the regulars should come to our relief.
"Wednesday morning, 19th.--We have been fighting all night. The boys are brave, but one of our bravest is gone. Kirby Miller, known among his companions as Buck Miller, was killed last night by a rifle ball through the neck; he bled internally and died in about an hour after he was carried into our breastwork. He was twenty-five years of age, strong and well made, and an excellent marksman. He was defending a sand point when he fell. "J. R. Sloan was slightly wounded last night in the arm. Today (19th) Thos. J. Sharp, raising his head for a moment above the breastwork, was wounded in the shoulder; this wound is also slight. One of our dogs had an arrow shot into his jaw, another was shot in the leg, and another in the side; I have extracted all the arrow points. The dogs were valuable to us, and most annoying to the savages--always letting us know when the foe was near.
"A bullet went through my saddle bags, perforating from end to end a tin box of salve and shattering four vials. We hope the regulars will soon be here; if they come not soon, we must charge the Diggers and cut our way through them, if we are not all cut to pieces in the attempt."
Colonel Buchanan and his men came to our relief about 2 o'clock p.m. on the 19th. Right glad were we to see them. We anticipated their arrival by the Indians in great numbers departing. They thought to draw us into an ambush by making us believe they had all gone, and putting us off our guard. Our captain was "up to the dodge." We waited about half an hour, when a redskin shot his black head into a crevice made in the sand, and one of our young men, called Tom, blew his skull into many fragments, and then they all left. The regulars soon appeared on the mountain, and we regained the use of our limbs. We had been fighting just thirty-two hours when the regulars appeared. Col. B. blamed everything, said we had interfered with his plans, and that he could not and would not recognize us.
On Wednesday, 26th, about 100 regulars went up the south side of the river, and about the same number ascended the north side. The object, as we understood it, was to burn the Mikonotunne village, destroy provisions, and if possible retake some horses and mules. Those on the north side while they were burning, or had burnt, the village, were attacked by the Indians, they rushing from the brush and charging the soldiers in open field. The soldiers charged in turn, and those who witnessed the fight say that never did soldiers behave more bravely. They charged uphill and through the brush into the very retreats of the enemy; they killed eight of them and compelled the rest to fly to their canoes. One of the soldiers, named Nash, was dangerously wounded. Another soldier named John Mahoney was wounded in the leg.
After poor Miller was killed we were all impressed with the importance of not wasting our ammunition, and we never fired unless we felt sure of our man. I calculate that we at least killed a Digger for every five shots, besides wounding many. This would give Diggers killed forty-two. There is, however, no certainty of this.
New York Evening Express, May 30, 1856, page 4
NARROW ESCAPE.--The government train, loaded with stores for the troops at the mouth of Rogue River, says the Crescent City Herald, which left our city some few weeks since, escorted by Captain D. F. Jones' company United States infantry, about two hundred hostile Indians awaited in ambush the arrival of the train, between Chetco and Pistol River. Unfortunately for the Indians,when they supposed the train was completely in their power, Captain Ord's company from the mouth of on its way down to meet and help escort the train up to Col. Buchanan's headquarters, when they discovered two Indian spies looking out for Captain Jones and his train. Captain Ord immediately sent out a detachment from his company who came in contact with the main body of the Indians, and succeeded in dispersing and killing six of their number.
"Northern California," Summit County Beaton, Akron, Ohio, July 9, 1856, page 3
GEORGE H. ABBOTTThursday evening, with the setting of the sun in the west, the soul of one of Idaho's pioneers passed peacefully into the great beyond. Like the dying day, his passing was as peaceful, and we know his rest will be sweet after a long and useful life, which brought him a pioneer to the West in 1849, a member of the first company of United States cavalry to cross the plains. His company, the Third Cavalry U.S.A., gave a good account of themselves in these early days, and in the Rogue River Indian trouble of 1851, and later during the Coquelle uprising he served with honors. In 1856 he organized a company to combat the Indians along the Lower Rogue River, and his entire life has been spent to his credit on the frontier. On the 19th of July, 1882, [he] located on Camas Prairie on the identical spot where he spent the rest of his life, locating his fine 320-acre ranch, which is just a mile west of Soldier[, Idaho].
Shortly [before] the Civil War he was appointed by President Pierce as Indian agent at Yaquina Bay, Ore., and while en route to Washington on a mission connected with his office he was in a railroad accident which badly mutilated him, but at the same time won him his future helpmate, Miss Charlotte H. Jones, of Thompsontown, Pa., whom he met at that time. They were married in 1865.
Mr. Abbott was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, October 22, 1829. He is survived by his wife, four sons, and two daughters--Charles H. of Boise, William B. of San Diego, Robert of Anaconda, and George of Soldier, Mrs. Lucy Nelson of Fairfield, and Mrs. Jessie Rowland of Soldier.
The funeral services were held Sunday from the Methodist Church, and a large concourse of friends of the departed followed his remains to their last resting place.
Unidentified typescript, identified as transcribed from "probably" the Camas County Courier, circa November 15, 1914
DEATHS.ABBOTT--George H. Abbott, a pioneer of Idaho and the West, died at his home at Soldier, Ida., Thursday evening at 6 o'clock, according to word received in Boise. He is survived by a wife and six children. No arrangements have been made for the funeral, which will be held at Soldier.
Mr. Abbott was born October 22, 1829. He crossed the plains in 1849 with the first company of soldiers that crossed the continent. He made his home in Oregon until 1861, when he moved to Idaho. Some years later Mr. Abbott went to the coast and remained until 1882, when he returned to Idaho, settling at Soldier, at which place he has resided since.
Besides his wife, who lives at Soldier, his children are: Charles H., 906 East Bannock, Boise; William V., San Diego, Cal.; Lucy Nelson, Fairfield; George R., Soldier, and Jessie Alice Rowland, Fairfield.
Idaho Statesman, Boise, October 16, 1914, page 7
Last revised April 17, 2017