A large meeting of the citizens of Jackson County met at the Eden school house, on Friday, the 23rd of May, 1856, to express their indignation at the course pursued by John Beeson, of Rogue River Valley, in writing letters to the editors of the several newspapers in Oregon and the United States.
Rev. S. P. Taylor was called to the chair, and W. G. T'Vault appointed secretary. The chairman explained the object of the meeting, in a brief and appropriate manner, whereupon the reading of a manuscript letters, signed by John Beeson and directed to the editor of the Herald (San Francisco) was called for and read. Capt. Smith, H. Colver, Esq., and Maj. Cranmer made appropriate speeches, whereupon W. G. T'Vault moved that a committee of five be appointed to draft resolutions expressive of the views of this meeting--passed. Messrs. Hays, Smith, Rice, Cranmer and Taylor were appointed said committee. After a short deliberation they reported the following preamble and resolutions:
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, May 24, 1856
Salem Sept 22nd / 56To Hon Jos. Lane
My dear Genl. I have recd some favors from you by last mail, for which I thank you. I only wonder how you can remember so many of your constituents. I see by some of the late papers that Genl Wool has been giving you & the citizens of Oregon another of his grape & canister fires in the way of lying. He seldom writes or publishes anything but what is filled with untruth. His authority principally is rumor and I see he quotes John Beeson, a man who was drove out of Rogue River Valley for his lying. This man Beeson is an Englishman not naturalized, settled in Oregon in '53. He at one time of his life kept a station in Illinois in the Underground Railroad for negro stealing from Missouri to Canada. He is a monomaniac on the subject of slavery, considers the negro or Indians better than the whites. So much for Genl Wool's truthful informants.
The war north is not ended yet. The regulars are endeavoring to coax them into a treaty with success the future will show. They have been tampered with by the policy of Genl Wool that even if a treaty is made they will break out again as soon as they rest a while and get more ammunition. There is yet some few scattering Indians in the vicinity of Rogue River Valley who are committing depredations on the settlers, and the army officers are making no efforts to bring them to terms. The citizens are trying to get up a purse and offer a reward for scalps. They are forced to do this to protect themselves & families. I have been on the Grand Ronde Reservation twice since the war south has been ended, and I have talked with all the chiefs from R. River, and they are very much dissatisfied. They say Genl Palmer told them lies. Old Sam & Ben told me that Palmer told them that as soon as old Chief John & his people came down that he would let them (Sam & Ben) and their people go back again to the reserve at Fort Lane. So you see I expect an outbreak amongst Indians on the Grand Ronde reserve next spring or as soon as they can rest and get a little ammunition from the regulars. It will require great prudence and energy as well as firmness in the agents to keep the Indians peaceable and on the reserve. I am boring [you] with a long letter, which I hope you will excuse.
John K. Lamerick
The Only Safe Way.
Editors True Californian:
In view of the fact that mutual murders are of frequent occurrence between the Indians and whites, wherever the races are in proximity, and as there is reason to believe much if not all might be avoided if the Indians were more fully protected in their natural rights, and proper means adopted to restrain the evil-disposed of both races.
To effect this it is necessary to press the subject upon the attention of the government and the people at large. Private war should be forbidden, and all, without distinction, should be protected by the civil law. Heretofore the Indian has not had much occasion to respect our laws or esteem our justice, for he has often felt their severity to punish, and but rarely their power to redress. Hence his wrongs and his religion alike prompt him to retaliate, and circumstances often leave him no alternative but to subject victims to his vengeance, who as individuals were innocent of offense.
We, as a people, have despoiled them of their heritage; we have taken possession of all the pleasant valleys of the Pacific, and soon we shall occupy the pleasant places of the interior; and, therefore, as a people having honor, magnanimity and Christian principle, we are bound to give them an equivalent in thorough protection in the means of support, and ample facilities for progress in the arts and civilization. It is a great mistake, which some try to propagate, viz: That Indians will not improve, and they are doomed to perish from the earth, and that the races cannot live in peace contiguous to each other.
The fact that they learn our language, adopt our dress, and imitate our manners, and when furnished with motive and means soon adapt themselves to the labors of the mine, the mechanic, or the farmer; they also soon learn the value of money and the modes of commerce; all of which proves the reverse of a too current opinion. Mr. Hervey, of Oregon City, formerly an officer of the Hudson's Bay Company, informed me that on one occasion he had a thousand acres of wheat and only three men. The harvesting was done, and well done, by Indians.
And as for peace, Dr. McLoughlin, who has been a trader for fifty years, and [for] twenty-two of which he was Superintendent for the Company, informs me that although their commerce extended from the coast to the headwaters of the Columbia and the Sacramento, yet in all that time they had no wars or serious difficulties with the Indians. "But," said he, "we administered impartial laws." And when this is uniformly done, it is well known the Indians are proud of the white man's friendship and patronage, and willingly submit to the guidance of his superior intellect.
It does by no means follow, that because the Indian tribes have to a great extent perished before the march of civilization, therefore they always will. It only proves that the proper means have not been taken to prevent it, and when a more philanthropic policy is pursued, it will not be the case.
The wars in Oregon and California, which are yet scarcely brought to a close, may be purely attributed to the mischief-making policy of Squatter Sovereignty. Numbers of a floating population have pursued a course alike inimical to justice and the true interests of the country, on the plea that they could, and had a right to, do as they chose, and thus the great object of good government--the preservation of life and liberty--has been cast aside, and violence and outrage substituted to a dreadful degree.
The unfortunate Indians are the special victims of this class of men, for whatever they do of a warlike character, no matter though it be in just retaliation or an act of self-defense, it is generally published as an act of aggression, of murder or massacre on the part of the Indians, whilst they have no means of access to the public ear. Whatever their enemies choose to say or do must be endured in silence, or suffer the punishment due only to the vilest criminals. I write this in hope that benevolent persons everywhere will interest themselves to inquire into the cause, whenever difficulties occur, and expose to public censure the conduct of those who would oppress the poor, or take advantage of the ignorant. We should do this not only as a matter of justice to the Indian but as a matter of self-interest to ourselves. Wars are destructive and costly--we might prevent them. Protect and civilize these outcasts, and they will contribute to our glory and strength. Neglect doing this, and we allow the growth of violence and wrong, which will fill the land with mutual robbery and outrage. Nothing is more true than that if the rights of any class are neglected, the rights of all others are in jeopardy, and the only permanent safety consists in universal justice.
Respectfully yours, JOHN BEESON.
Undated newspaper clipping (probably early 1856), Letter to the Oregon Statesman of October 8, 1856, NARA Series M234, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, Reel 609 Oregon Superintendency 1856, frame 22.
A large meeting of the citizens of Jackson County met at the Eden school house, on Friday, the 23rd of May, 1856, to express their indignation at the course pursued by John Beeson, of Rogue River Valley, in writing letters to the editors of several newspapers in Oregon and the United States.
Rev. S. P. Taylor was called to the chair, and W. G. T'Vault appointed secretary. The chairman explained the object of the meeting in a brief and appropriate manner, whereupon the reading of a manuscript letter, signed by John Beeson and directed to the editor of the Herald (San Francisco) was called for and read. Capt. Smith, H. Culver, Esq., and Maj. Cranmer made appropriate speeches, whereupon W. G. T'Vault moved that a committee of five be appointed to draft resolutions expressive of the views of this meeting--passed. Messrs. Hays, Smith, Rice, Cranmer and Taylor were appointed said committee. After a short deliberation they reported the following preamble and resolutions:
WHEREAS, Certain singular and unjustifiable assertions and misrepresentations have recently, by some means, come into circulation, in the form of a letter purporting to have been written by John Beeson, of this place, for publication in the S.F. Herald, reflecting upon the character of the people of Southern Oregon, by charging them with aggressions and wrongs upon the Indian tribes of the country, and thereby, without cause, bringing about an unjustifiable and disastrous war, waged indiscriminately upon the innocent and defenseless Indians; therefore--
Resolved, That said letter contains numerous misrepresentations and charges against the people of Southern Oregon, that have not the least shadow of truth, but are the productions of a low and depraved intellect.
Resolved, That it is the duty of all well-meaning citizens promptly and publicly to expose the author of said letter, as by neglecting to do so the falsehoods set forth therein might be received as truth by those who are unacquainted with the facts.
Resolved, That we approve of the course taken by the editors of the Table Rock Sentinel, in refusing to publish such facts and unjust statements.
On motion of Capt. Smith the resolutions were accepted, and, on motion of Capt. Rice, unanimously adopted. On motion of Capt. Smith, the secretary is requested to furnish the editors of the Table Rock Sentinel with the proceedings of this meeting, with a request that they publish the same.
On motion, the meeting adjourned.
S. P. Taylor, Ch'n.Table Rock Sentinel, May 24, 1856, page 2
W. G. T'Vault, Sec'y.
To the Public.
In the Table Rock Sentinel of Rogue River Valley, O.T., of May 24, '56, and also in the advertising columns of the Oregon Statesman of June 10, there is an account of a public meeting, and as the proceedings of which aim a blow at the press generally, at the integrity of the Postal Department, and the constitutional rights of every citizen, I doubt not but it will be deemed a matter of some interest.
The object of the meeting appears to have been to express indignation at the course of an individual in writing letters to several editors in Oregon and the United States, in proof of which a manuscript letter was produced by Mr. T'Vault addressed to the San Francisco Herald, signed by John Beeson. Mr. T'Vault observed that the same writer had that very week offered him for publication in the Sentinel a document headed "A Plea for the Indians." After several speeches denunciatory of the aforesaid John Beeson, a series of resolutions were adopted and published as the sense of the meeting, of which the following are the principal:
"Resolved, That said letter contains numerous misrepresentations and charges against the people of Southern Oregon, that have not the least shadow of truth, but are the productions of a low and depraved intellect.
"Resolved, That it is the duty of all well-meaning citizens promptly and publicly to expose the author of said letter, as by neglecting to do so the falsehoods set forth therein might be received as truth."
I would observe that no statements were written or otherwise made by me but what were subject of conversation and belief in the valley. I did not write for other papers until after repeated attempts and failures to be heard through those at home and a declaration in public meeting that I would be heard through those abroad.
The manuscript letter alluded to was sent to the P.O. about the 1st of May, and was, by some means not explained, taken possession of by T'Vault and privately circulated for the purpose of getting up an excitement of which the above meeting was to have been the expression, but in consequence of the predominance of a better sentiment the object was for the time defeated. I was invited to the meeting, but forbidden the privilege of speaking in self-defense.
Now I ask the whole press of the land, shall those upon whom they depend for items of news be subject to popular violence for trying to report a truthful statement of passing events? I ask, shall our rulers be misled by deception? Shall the truth be suppressed for a waste of treasure and destruction of the life and morals of our people, and widespread mischief all around? I ask, is it not possible that if those letters which I am accused of sending to the editors in Oregon (not one of which were published) had been spread before the people inquiry would have been induced and the southern war prevented? I therefore appeal to the authorities for redress. I demand that the letter which has been purloined or improperly detained be immediately forwarded to its address, as I hold myself responsible to the laws of the land for its contents.
Through the manly indulgence of the editor of the Argus, who believes in fair play for all, I shall in succeeding numbers publish an answer to the foregoing charges in an address to the citizens of Rogue River Valley.
Also, A Plea for the Indians, so that all may judge of the amount of censure or punishment due for the same.
JOHN BEESON.Oregon Argus, Oregon City, June 21, 1856, page 2
Oregon City, June 21, '56.
To My Family and Friends in Rogue River Valley.
The circumstances of my departure and continued absence from your midst have I know occasioned you anxious thoughts as to my whereabouts and welfare. Having an opportunity, I avail myself of the politeness of the Argus to relieve your anxieties by addressing you all at once, and as little incidents are endowed with interest amongst friends, you will be pleased to know some of the details of what I have observed since my sojourn amongst strangers.
Having a natural objection to unnatural treatment, and being informed that the recently disbanded volunteer companies (many of whom were encamped in my vicinity) were highly exasperated by the reading of a "manuscript letter" and comments upon the same by Mr. T'Vault and others, and being informed that violence was determined upon, as a matter of prudence I left home at 11 o'clock at night of the 24th of May--arrived at Fort Lane by daylight on Sunday the 25th--spent several hours in agreeable conversation with the gentlemanly Captain Underhill, commandant at the fort. I was particularly struck with the exact order and discipline which prevailed; even the blacksmith was polite, and the demeanor of the steward was as easy and courteous as that of a polished gentleman. I inquired of the Captain if the observance of such constant etiquette was not irksome to rough, uncultured men. He said they not only soon learned, but LOVED THE PRACTICE.
If I could have doubted the Captain's word I should have been reassured by the narration I heard the other evening by a returned volunteer from the north, who said: "When volunteers under Nesmith met with the regulars under Haller they exchanged mutual salutes of three cheers each, but" (said he with emphasis) "they beat us. They swung their caps with such a graceful sweep, it was beautiful to see, and their voices were all of the same pitch and time; it was as the shout of one man, expressive of the feeling they meant to convey."
I think this subject deserves more attention than is commonly given, for, truly, if mind makes the man, manners give the finish, and in connection with this I am sure I cannot do better than commend to my friends the "Illustrated Manners Book," by Dr. Nichols, of Cincinnati. It lays down the principle and illustrates the practice in every phase of human intercourse in such a manner as scarcely any can read without greatly enhancing their own and others' happiness. I believe that book is destined to be a national standard in manners, as Webster's is in words. It is sent by mail free for one dollar.
At three o'clock in the afternoon an escort under the command of a young lieutenant, whose name I have forgotten (but he was an amiable and courteous officer) started with me for Evans' Fort, 23 miles. The following incident suggested thoughts which it may not be out of place to record: Immediately on landing from the ferry boat, a pet deer approached us with all the confidence of an old friend, putting her nose in our hands and upon our persons. The question arose, why this agreeable familiarity in a creature naturally so timid? Doubtless it is the result of proper treatment with kindness. Now suppose I speak to it in the language and tone with which Captain Smith says he spoke to the Indians, when with others he went before sunrise to their ranch after a missing horse. Would not its heart throb with fear? And if I should make it conscious of my intent to kill by shooting down its mate by its side, would not its muscles tremble and its eyes, now so mild, glisten with terror? And if I pursued and cornered it, would it not assume the attitude of one determined to flee if it could, or fight if it must? Inference--If such an unpleasant relative change takes place from such a cause in the feelings and conduct of a deer, we need not wonder that another creature called a "buck," possessing equal sense and higher reason, should be correspondingly affected.
During our ride I found it difficult to keep my horse (a cayuse) in due military order of march; whether it was diffidence arising from a feeling of inferiority, or whether it was emblematic of another race, I will not determine, but certain it is I could not induce him to travel abreast with his American brethren--but at the same time he would not be left far behind, but followed close on their heels, treading in their footsteps.
Before commencing our march on the morning of the 27th the lieut. informed me that there were two or three places along our route, owing to deflections in the mountain and heavy timber, suitable for an ambuscade, which it was customary to pass at a rapid pace. So in order to be fully prepared for any emergency, I inquired of Mr. Evans if he could sell me a pair of spurs. He soon presented me with a pair of very large ones with tingles and all complete for $6, but as I had never before in my life had such an appendage to my heels I thought one was enough, so I bought but one. After traveling a mile or two we came to one of those dangerous points. My guards suddenly spurred on in a rapid canter. We had proceeded but a few rods with this increased speed before my steed drew up in a sudden halt, and no spurring or pounding would cause him to stir an inch, but such was the impetus the troopers had attained that those in the rear shot ahead for some distance before they perceived the difficulty. Well, I thought, here's a pretty fix; if old Limpy and his warriors, or any other bloody assassins, emerge from their hiding place, what shall I do? I have no revolver or knife, and if I had I should be loath to use them. Quick as thought the resolve was made: I'll pull off my hat, and make a pleasure bow. They will see at once there is no show for a scalp, and then I knew a smile, a friendly look of recognition toward an Indian or a Chinaman, or any of the outcasts, which I always try to give, has never failed to elicit a spark, a flash of sympathy, indicative of anything but mutual hate. So I felt assurance, and in fact my courage never failed, for I thought let the worst come, I would expect the Savior's blessing, and rather die making peace than waging war. But my horse--what was the matter? Upon placing my hand upon his abdomen, I perceived an inward flutter or tremor, indicative of inflammation. I soon ascertained that contrary to my request the stable man, out of pure good will, had given him a full feed of oats and old corn with the stable-fed horses; mine coming direct from grass could not digest such a meal and travel at the same time. However, the guard traveled more slowly, and by letting him drink a small quantity at every stream, in the course of an hour he was able to perform with the rest. I took the first opportunity to relieve my foot from the spur, which, when on, gave the foot somewhat the appearance of a miniature steamboat with a stern wheel. I threw it in a deep ravine, where I hope it will remain, and thought $3 was little enough penalty for the torture of a suffering brute, although I could find no spur galls on his side, and when I afterwards saw a man riding before me with a similar thing, and noticed how he elevated his heel in its use, I knew I had made no such motions, so possibly my poor horse never felt its touch.
Having passed one of the volunteer forts, and believing myself beyond the scene of the excitement, and the escort having accompanied me as far as the commander of Fort Lane had directed, I cheerfully took leave of my military friends and pursued my course alone.
On the 28th passed through the Canyon, and did not wonder at the many stories I had heard of failing teams and broken wagons, for truly it is both muddy and rough in the extreme; nevertheless I had very pleasant thoughts whilst passing along. I felt no fear of Indians or of evil of any kind. The deep solitude and majestic timber seemed to apprise me of the presence of Him who dwelleth not in temples made with hands, and the trees and the rocks, the birds and the rivulets inspired feelings of holy worship toward the great Creator of ALL.
When near the north end I met a drove of hogs, all in tolerable order and size except one little fellow, which I suppose was the only survivor of his brothers, who were all dead and buried in the mud, and it seemed as though it ought either to be killed or carried, for it evidently "travailed in pain." In the rear of the hogs were several drivers, and behind them an escort of mounted men, whom I took to be a "detachment from the north battalion of the southern army." Afterwards, I think on the following day, I met a train of several wagons, each drawn by four yoke of oxen. I supposed they were loaded with bacon, butter &c., for the mines, but upon inquiry was informed the loading consisted of ammunition and medicine bound for Jacksonville.
I was particularly delighted with the varied and beautiful scenery which ever and anon presented itself to my view as I traveled through the Umpqua. I spent one night and a part of the next day with my good old friends of twenty years' acquaintance, the Rev. Messrs. Royal, of the Umpqua Academy, visited the institute of learning in which they are engaged, and was pleased with what I saw of the intellectual productions of the students. Singing formed a part (as I think it should in all schools) of their daily exercises, and its cheering and elevating effect is visible in the bright and happy countenances of both teachers and taught, as well as in the kind demeanor toward each other which the frequent blending of voices in cheerful song naturally tends to induce. I counted 32 little ones, of ages from 5 to 12, arranged in a circle, who sang several pieces in excellent style, without notes and without leaders, Mrs. Royal only giving the pitch. These children were not selected on account of natural gift, neither were they acquainted with notes, but had learned by practice to sing in harmony. Every child sang, and scarcely did I perceive a discordant note. Why then, thought I, cannot every child be learned, and ALL in every congregation sing, and thus realize the poet's exclamation:
"Oh, how delightful 'tis to seeBy request I delivered a short address, and the persuasive control of the teachers, the willing obedience of the pupils, the thrill of sweet sounds, the general appearance of comfort in the surrounding section, the pure air and beautiful landscape, all conspired to suggest the theme of HARMONY AND ORDER as Heaven's first law. Here (it was observed) are the conditions and surroundings for a high development of intellectual and social happiness. God here speaks from the towering monuments of His power, and in the sweet breeze which, as the breath of Heaven, imparts a zest and enjoyment to all the blessings of Earth. "Be ye holy, for I am holy."
The whole assembly worship Thee,
At once they sing, at once they pray,
They hear of Heaven and learn the way."
Whilst making the foregoing remarks, the idea occurred, if these favorable conditions are so conducive to the culture of the higher faculties in us, were they not proportionally so in respect to the people who occupied this region before we took possession? And I felt the impression that there must of necessity be some correspondence between the physical and intellectual condition of the inhabitants and the country they occupy. It is too true that the influence of evil example, contact with civilized vice, and the use of tobacco and alcohol, must necessarily deteriorate any primitive race. Therefore, making due allowance, I cannot but believe that a fair investigation in regard to intellectual capacity and moral faculties of the Indian tribes would develop a far higher grade than what is generally admitted they possess. In view of the law of harmony, I could not but feel how discordant is war, and that if our people adhered strictly to purity, love and truth, the races would be a mutual benefit, and both grow in peace and plenty.
In crossing the Calapooia Mountains, I was agreeably disappointed in finding them not high or precipitous, but to consist of rolling hills covered with various timber and hazel bushes. The soil appeared adapted for grass and grain, and I anticipate but a few years will pass before multitudes of people will here find sustenance and thrift.
Before reaching the Willamette my horse seemed tired, so I traded for a fresh one, giving $15 to boot. It is a black, with a white face and numerous white marks from his mane to his tail, evidences of the suffering to which he has been subject. The man said, "You must frequently give him a good pounding, for these ponies are like the Indians--saucy, unless you keep them well under." Finding him a good traveler, I made headway for several miles, until I alighted at a brook to drink, but to my disappointment found it impossible to remount. The beast seemed to expect the usual "pounding," and whenever I approached his side he shied back, trembled, and snorted with excitement. As I believed a pounding would be rather an aggravation than a cure for such symptoms, I concluded to carry my own truck, and lead him two or three miles, when meeting with help I remounted, and by oft-repeated gentle pats and kind words succeeded in gaining his confidence. Have had no more trouble, and find him good for 40 miles a day without whip or spur.
This letter is already too long, or I would like to tell you what I realize in this lovely climate and beautiful valley. I have spent some time in Corvallis, Albany, Salem and Dayton. In each of these places I found much of pleasant interest, which I cannot now relate. I am at present in Oregon City, enjoying the hospitalities of my old friend Robert Pentland, who in company with others own the transit warehouse, situate on the brim of the great Falls of the Willamette. They have a sawmill adjoining, and have at the present time a number of workmen engaged in the erection of a grist mill. I judge this property must be of immense value. Steamboats are almost always in sight, both above and below, and seem to be doing quite an active business. Oregon City is a rough but romantic location. Although it has been somewhat depopulated by the rush to the mines, yet her permanent resources and her people, who know how to make them available, will ultimately secure a preeminence in the noble country whose name she bears. There is evidence of taste and refinement in the improvements in progress and the tasteful culture of fruits and flowers, the gardens redolent with roses, and the charming bouquets in hands vying in beauty with those who carried them.
I have paid several visits to the justly renowned Dr. McLoughlin, whose name and history are inseparably connected with those of Oregon. His appearance indicates a fine specimen of the venerable and good amongst men. He possesses a large frame, with a face ruddy with health, and a profusion of silken hair and whiskers whitened with age. Fifty-three years he has lived and traded with the Indian tribes, 22 of which he was Superintendent, or he might have been called King in Oregon. When he first arrived on the site of this city he had but seven men, and was surrounded by 5000 Indians, yet he maintained absolutely authority, and during all those years had no general war. I inquired, "How did you prevent difficulties?" He replied, "By the administration of impartial justice. The Indians saw that they were protected as well as punished by law, and they learned to respect it. On one occasion a white man committed a rape on an Indian female. I sentenced him to forty stripes in presence of the tribe, which was applied with such severity as to cover him with blood and gore, but if I had not done it two white ladies then coming into the country would have suffered from retaliation, for which if I had inflicted punishment general war would have been the consequence. Indians are tenacious of their rights, and the only way to live in peace is to maintain just laws."
Believe me your friend as ever,
JOHN BEESON.Oregon Argus, Oregon City, June 21, 1856, pages 2-3
Oregon City, June 21, '56.
Fair Play.Newspaper clipping, NARA Series M234, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, Reel 609 Oregon Superintendency 1856, frame 19.
What Cheer House, San Francisco,
August 12, 1856.
Editors True Californian:
In reading the papers brought by the last steamer from Oregon, I could not but remark the great injustice done to two worthy officials of the general government, as well as to those of our citizens who sympathize with their views.
One paper declares that the dismission of Gen. Palmer from the Indian Superintendency is "good news to the people of Oregon, for he had done them more harm than the Indians, by his falsehoods and aspersions."
Another paper represents the people of Oregon as having been between two fires, "the Indians on one side and Gen. Wool on the other."
These are serious charges, and as there is not to my knowledge any writer in Oregon or California who has written a word in explanation or defense, and as I have lived in the midst of the scenes of war in Southern Oregon from its commencement, I desire to make the following statements. I make them as the result of earnest observation of the parties concerned, and of deep, deliberate conviction of their truth. I am prepared to say that the reports of Gen. Palmer, in regard to the origin of the war, are not falsehoods, are not aspersions, but true to the letter.
And, moreover, his action in collecting the scattered tribes upon the reserve, for which he was so bitterly opposed, was in accordance with honor, with the highest dictates of humanity and official duty. And as he performed this service under a high sense of conscious right and benevolent impulses in the face of popular prejudice, of threatening and danger, he deserves honor and esteem for his heroism and integrity, instead of dismission and calumny. And I am assured this assertion will be sustained by hundreds of intelligent citizens whose views he has carried out, but whose sentiments have not been abroad through the press.
And as to the veteran Major General Wool, what is his fault that there should be such torrents of denunciation and not a word from any quarter in his defense? The Legislative House of Oregon, and the Governors of two Territories have done their utmost to dishonor him before the nation, by representations of defective judgment, and inefficiency in the station he holds; a multitude of men whose pecuniary interests are at stake, headed by a press, united against him. Surely against such a power, and in the absence of any supporting aid, a man under ordinary circumstances would be crushed to death. But as the General is sustained apparently without help, I propose to show the reason. Doubtless his age, his patriotism, his tried skill and courage weighs well in his favor, but these altogether could not sustain him against the overwhelming force of numbers, provided they had sufficient reason for their charges. But the fact is, they have nothing to stand upon that will bear the light of reason and truth, and the Governors and others, who are justly responsible, may well tremble in view of what history may someday expose to public gaze in relation to the origin and conduct of the present war.
I do not wish, Messrs. Editors, to spin out a long letter of details; it is enough to say that intelligent men, whose knowledge of facts entitles their testimony to respect, declare the war to be unnecessary, and therefore unjust; that it was commenced by the cruel aggressions and robbery of the Indians by the same class of men who get into office by perjury and fraud, in order the more easily to rob their fellows. The Indians were treated in such a manner by these men, and having no press, no pleaders, and no "vigilance committees" to guard their interests, they had but one alternative, to combine for self-protection or be cut off like helpless brutes.
I speak more particularly of Southern Oregon, when I say that for months previous to the open outbreak, the chiefs had complained again and again of their grievances. They asked most piteously, "Why do the Bostons want to shoot us?" "We do not want war, but peace and protection." On one occasion, when assembled at Fort Lane, they desired the document upon which the treaty was written might be read aloud, and, as sentence after sentence was uttered, they appealed to those present, and earnestly asked, Have we not kept that--have we not kept that? and so on to the end of every article. At the same time, whites were shooting them with impunity whenever they had an opportunity. So many were cut off in this way, that old Chief John refused to make treaty, because (said he), "I had more men killed during peace than war"; and yet, when in retaliation, a white man was killed, it was published abroad as a savage outrage for which they ought to be exterminated. And scores of men, in the summer of '55, went from Northern California, declaring their intention to make war upon the Indian on their way to the new mines in Northern Oregon.
But the sub-agents and the civil authorities assumed as though the Indians only were guilty, and they alone should be "chastised" (i.e., killed), and the Governor forthwith called the people to arms, and thus the law and peace-loving citizens, being surrounded and overwhelmed with the horrors of war, were obliged to participate as a matter of self-defense.
Under these circumstances, is it any wonder that General Wool should demur at engaging the national forces in a war against a people pleading for mercy and protection in a war brought about by blacklegs and rowdies. For let it be known, there was no time during the winter but the Indians were anxious for peace, and could they have but assurance of protection, gladly would they have made treaty; but the volunteers threatened a general massacre if treaty were made; they protracted the war for months, on pretense that the Indians must be whipped.
It is morally certain that if Governor Curry (and I believe the same may be said of Gov. Stevens and the Northern war) had exercised his legitimate functions in the preservation of peace, instead of going out and beyond his sphere for other purposes, there would have been no Southern Oregon war, and all this misery, blood and treasure might have been saved.
The very idea of soldiers, who engage in warfare with honorable motives of patriotism and defense of country, to be degraded in the perpetration of a destructive war, without necessity; a war with no noble object in view; in which success was no profit, and victory no honor, is repulsive and humiliating in the extreme. And Gen. Wool deserves, and will ultimately receive, full credit for the manner in which he has at once maintained his own dignity and the national honor.
HE HAD BETTER PAY.--We notice John Beeson, a fanatical old man from Jackson County, Oregon, is filling the San Francisco papers with silly letters about the Oregon war. He has published one in the N.Y. Tribune, from which we make the following extract:
"The Statesman would only publish my account of the indignation meeting as an advertisement, for which it charged $12.--The Pacific Advocate promised to publish both statements, but did not print mine, and a short article which I wrote for its columns was refused admission. I called upon Mr. Adams of the Oregon Argus; he said he had advocated war through a misapprehension of facts, but since fuller information will freely print on both sides alike."
That is true. We told Mr. Beeson that his letter concerned nobody but himself, and we could only publish it as advertisement. He left it, and we charged him $12, which sum he promised to pay, but he went off without doing it.
Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, September 16, 1856, page 2
DIFFICULTIES IN OREGON.
To the Editor of the N.Y. Tribune.
Sir: Will you permit me to occupy a small portion of your columns with a brief personal narrative of occurrences growing out of the Oregon war. I belong to the small minority in Oregon who believe with Generals Wool and Palmer that the late war was unnecessary and cruel in the extreme, and that all the burning of property, the destruction of life and expenditure of public treasure, would have been saved if the civil authorities had administered equal justice instead of calling the people to arms. I have lived since the fall of 1853 in Rogue River Valley, Southern Oregon, situated between the headwaters of the Sacramento and the Willamette valleys, and have had an opportunity of knowing much of the Indian tribes, both on the plains as well as on the Pacific Coast. Notwithstanding the heart-rending statements of savage barbarity which the Oregon papers have constantly spread before the public, it is a fact there are far more murdered Indians than Indian murders, and when the whole truth is known, I believe it will appear that Indians are less savage than some who assume to be civilized.
Often as I have looked upon these people, dwelling in small communities in the shady grove or along the limpid stream, beautifully supplied with fish and roots and berries for subsistence, and apparently happy in the relationship of family and friends, the conviction was forced upon me that they were living as much in harmony with the beautiful surroundings as their more toiling and anxious brethren of another race. I could not perceive wherein they were not equally with us endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And after they were driven from their pleasant homes, and their domains usurped by invaders, I never saw anything in their condition or conduct but what aroused my deepest sympathy and commiseration. To have submitted to robbery and outrage of the gravest kind without resentment would be more than Christian; to have remained passive and indifferent would be less than Men.
I do not see under the circumstances how they could have done different or better than they have done, for practically they have only exclaimed with our own noble sires, "Give us liberty or give us death." And for this they have been denounced as not only savages, but as "varmints" and demons unfit to live, and the military force of two Territories has been drawn out to destroy them from the earth.
Under the deep conviction of duty, I never failed, from my arrival in to my departure from the valley, to declaim against the great wrong our people were doing. And, though many good citizens privately told me of similar convictions, yet I know of none in whom it was strong enough to prompt open expression. I write of this not with vain boast, but with the mingled feeling of deep regret and lively joy. Regret that so many of my neighbors and friends should cower in base subjection to speculators and rowdies, and yield their constitutional right to freedom of speech. Joy, because my life is spared, contrary to my own expectation and the predictions of my friends and foes, who said I should fall by an assassin.
All the papers in the Territory were closed against me, yet they were unsparing in denunciation, and letters which I sent to the post office for the California papers were not allowed to pass, but were opened in Jacksonville, so that when I arrived in San Francisco not one had been published. At length a letter, or the substance of one, which I had written appeared among them in the N.Y. Tribune of April 5. This brought matters to a climax. Indignation meetings were got up and the writer denounced in the strongest language, and not a tongue dare move in his defense. Having been privately informed of what was intended, I fled in the darkness of night to Fort Lane and was, by an escort of United States troops, conveyed beyond the scene of excitement. I arrived by the steamer Illinois last Saturday, and am pleased find myself, though among strangers, in your city.
JOHN BEESON.New York, Sept. 30, 1856.
Newspaper clipping, NARA Series M234, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, Reel 609 Oregon Superintendency 1856, frame 20.
N.Y. October 8, 1856.NARA Series M234, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, Reel 609 Oregon Superintendency 1856, frames 14-17. A copy is on NARA Series M234 Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs 1824-81, Reel 609 Oregon Superintendency, 1856.
I trust I shall not be deemed intrusive in addressing you. The peculiarity of my position is my apology. Having lived for the last three years in Rogue River Valley, Southern Oregon, and been familiar with much of the origin & history of the Indian war and knowing the great wrongs our people were doing, I fully sympathize with Generals Wool & Palmer. And failed not in my efforts to bring about a different course, but the public here & the press in the Territory were closed against reproof. And because I wrote letters to eastern papers stating acknowledged facts, hoping thereby to stay the outrages. Indignation meetings were got up and my life threatened.
I fled on the night of the 26th of last May to Fort Lane for safety, and was escorted by the U.S. troops
I also published an address to the citizens of Southern Oregon, as well as several letters in behalf of justice & mercy towards the Indians.
For the fact is, this war has grown out of the selfish propensities of the whites far more than the bad conduct of the Indians, and therefore my feelings of patriotism & convictions of right impelled me to sustain a moral war against moral wrongs. For we had abounding evidence that notwithstanding the excellent instructions furnished from the Commissioner of the Indian Department to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, they could not be properly carried out with a surrounding population wholly opposed. The consequence is embarrassment, loss & widespread misery.
To stop this mischief and to prevent similar recurrence, I have written many private letters and public appeals through the press, having obtained the use of one paper in the Willamette for which I paid a good riding horse & equipments and had extra copies circulated gratuitously. I also stayed in San Francisco several weeks purposely to enlist the influence of the press in behalf of justice & right.
I arrived in this city 27 of June with less than $10 in my pocket and a perfect stranger.
Having been thus forced by circumstance into public work to the great detriment of my domestic and pecuniary interests as well as prostration of health.
I respectfully submit whether I have not a claim for indemnity and support until I can safely return to my home, which will hardly be until the war claims are adjusted.
My course from the first was the spontaneous promptings of my own judgment and was intended as the most direct method to arrest evil. And I have the satisfaction of believing that much treasure and some lives were saved, and the war brought to a speedier close. I have no letters of introduction because I asked for none, but I have two letters of a personal & private nature from Gen. Wool and I believe the approbation of the moral sense of Oregon & California.
And I propose to furnish facts and incidents of Indian character and the power of kindness until public sentiment shall frown upon the multiplied wrongs to which the Indian tribes are subject.
If you should wish for further information, corroborative or illustrative, of the authorized reports in relation to the war or the wants and prospects of the tribes on the reserve or elsewhere, I think you could be furnished with the same, as besides myself there is now in this city a very intelligent man, long a resident upon the coast, and familiar with matters of interest in that quarter.
There is also a gentleman who aided Gen. Palmer in collecting the remnants and for two months taught the first school the poor children were ever in. His account of their progress is very interesting, and I think the information he could communicate to the Department would be useful as a basis for future action.
With this I send two or three scraps [transcribed above] from California papers merely as evidence of the kind of articles I have published. Also a N.Y. Tribune of September; in [it] is a brief statement of the circumstances which occasioned the murder of the lamented Whitman, missionary to the Indians, in '48. Please let me know whether the Department will require any further reference as to credibility or character. If so I will furnish any reasonable amount from LaSalle Co., Ill., where I lived on one farm 22 years, or to numbers in Oregon & California. I am now at a "water cure" in N.Y. incurring debt for which I have no means at command to pay.
Please addressTo Mr. Manypenny
Care of Fowler & Wells
308 Broadway N.Y.
And oblige your obedient servt.
of the Indian Department
Review of Agent Metcalfe's Letter of Detente.
Mr. Editor: In a late Oregon Statesman [letter of June 21, 1856], there is a letter from R. B. Metcalfe, whom the editor in a note informs us is a "gentleman of character and honor, kinsman of ex-Governor Metcalfe, of Kentucky, and Indian Agent for Southern Oregon."
The letter purports to be written in defense of the people against certain statements going the rounds to their prejudice, and is mainly occupied with proof to show that the Indians under the Old Chief "John" were the aggressors in the war.
I am somewhat acquainted with the circumstances, and believing that the Indians as well as the worthy citizens of Southern Oregon have been greatly injured by such a perversion of facts as Mr. Metcalfe's letter contains, I am induced to offer the following by way of correction.
I will not charge Mr. Metcalfe with falsehood, but for argument's sake, admit all that he has said about the chiefs urging the tribes to combine for war. Yet I must observe, and I believe every high-minded citizen will agree with me, how unfair to give such a one-sided account against a venerable chief, and against a people who could not write a refutation of falsehood.
Why did not Mr. Metcalfe, in his account of the origin of the war, tell of the doings of both parties--how a white wretch shot the husband of the chief's daughter, because he would not give her up to his lust? How his own son was kept in irons for weeks on a charge believed to be false, and, after a fair trial, was dismissed by the authorities, but taken by the lawless and cruelly put to death, and how that numbers of men made it a point for months previous to open war to shoot Indians wherever they could do it with safety to themselves; and that the chiefs made complaints again and again, but could get neither redress or protection; that not a house was burned, or a woman or child injured by Indians until after their homes were burnt and their families destroyed.
Why, I ask, does Mr. Metcalfe keep these facts out of sight, to the prejudice of those whose interests he is bound by office and honor to protect.
Mr. Metcalfe knows well that, before the Indians committed any of these outrages, an organized band of men made an attack with the avowed purpose of killing every Indian in the valley, regardless of age or sex; and that this murderous work was commenced in earnest on the morning of Oct. 8th, 1855, when three ranches were burnt over, and thirty of their inmates put to death, fourteen of whom were women and children--and this was done subsequent to an assurance (a day or two previous) of peace and protection, in order the more easily to effect their destruction. About the same time, many were killed in different parts of the valley, and Capt. Smith was threatened with an overwhelming assault by the volunteers if he opened the fort for their protection, so that the Indians had no alternative but to fight for life, or be killed like brutes.
But Mr. Metcalfe defends the killing of women and children, by saying, that, in battle, they crowd together, and it can't be helped. He forgets that, at first, it was deliberately intended to kill ALL. But suppose this was not the case: how will he explain the circumstances of those three Indian women, who had taken refuge on the top of Table Rock, being shot, and their bodies falling over the cragged rocks, down the steep precipice below. The sight of these mangled victims as they lay writhing in agony was so shocking that it was reported that they were scared and fell down; but Dr. Ambrose, who lived in the vicinity, informed me that they did not fall until they were fired upon.
And how will he explain the circumstance of Rice's company going to the relief of Bruce and capturing two women and an infant, who, as the volunteers report, were clubbed to death, the child's brains dashed out against a tree, in retaliation for which the papers state that the Indians put to death two white captive females.
If it had been true that the editor of the Statesman had not published the fact that Mr. Metcalfe has such high connections, and moreover is a "gentleman of honor and character," we, the citizens of Southern Oregon, should have some misgivings on that point, for everybody who has read the papers knows that it is not the custom of the women and children to crowd in conflict, but to fly for refuge. The warriors alone face their assailants, and moreover, from the mode of attack, generally adopted, of creeping in the dark, or, as at the meadows, approaching under cover of a dense cloud, and pouring their deadly fire on the unsuspecting families, the killing of women and children would be evidence of design, not chance.
I could write much more of these painful details, but enough is presented to show the wrong position which agent Metcalfe has assumed, and the injustice he has endeavored to inflict upon a people who, to say the least, are blamed and punished for more than they deserve.
I assure you, Mr. Editor, it is with disappointment and deep regret that I read Mr. Metcalfe's letter, and that I pen this review, for from his reputation as a gentleman, it was hoped the poor outcasts had in him a friend, not only because of his office, but because of his alliance by love and parentage, it was thought the tender associations of family and kin would secure from him a just regard for their rights, especially as it was generally reported that he is a kind man and an affectionate father, unlike those monsters who treat their Indian offspring like brutes. He acknowledges the relationship, and cares for their culture. Why does not Mr. Metcalfe use his official power in its application on behalf of the people of his charge? Why does he allow them to be deprived of these rights "without due process of law."
I suppose, Mr. Editor, you are ready to inquire, Are there no good citizens in Southern Oregon, no lovers of truth and justice? I answer yes; as many in proportion as you have in your city, but the press, and the power are in the hands of the enemy, and until the Indians have a "Vigilance Committee" to guard their interest, and honest thought a free expression, and good men rule the people, Oregon, like California, will groan under accumulated curses.
But there is hope; light is springing up, and the eyes of many are opening, and ere long we believe the sun of righteousness will shine over all the land.
JOHN BEESON.Letter to the Oregon Statesman of October 8, 1856, NARA Series M234, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, Reel 609 Oregon Superintendency 1856, frame 21.
THE INDIANS AND THE MURDERED
To the Editor of the N.Y. Tribune.
SIR: The fate of the lamented Whitman has been repeatedly brought up in the Oregon papers, in proof that the Indians have no gratitude, and when caprice or interest prompts, will kill, without discrimination, either friend or foe, and hence they justify the atrocious war of extermination.
Now, if this was even true of the Indians, it is certainly true of their white neighbors, for it has been notorious that for one white person killed a whole tribe has been put to death. And there are scores of men in Oregon who have made their boast of shooting Indians, not because of crime, but merely because they were Indians.
The old chief John objected to make treaty with the authorities, for, said he, "I had more men shot in the same time during peace than in war; then we were off our guard, but now we look out for enemies."
The writer of this was in the vicinity, and earnestly, both in public and in private, protested against the contemplated massacre of the Rogue River Indians for weeks before its attempted perpetration. Nevertheless, because some few had received a retaliatory shot, panic, passion and patriotism combined in an organization for their destruction. It was not even pretended that they were all guilty, but only suspected that some of a hostile tribe were among them, and for this scores, including men, women and children, were put to death, and but for the superior discretion and courage of the Indians over their assailants, the war would have been far more bloody and destructive than it was, for, after the first treacherous attack on the [8th] of October, upon a party who had just been assured of peace and protection, when thirty or forty were killed at once, they obtained the advantage over the volunteers, and could have sustained with them a war for years. Yet they were far from burning property and killing all that fell in their power. They studiously kept within the limits of retaliatory law--property for property and life for life. Hence it was often a subject of remark that fifty Indians could have destroyed in detail all the houses in the valley if they had been disposed. But the fact is, they did not consider themselves at war with the government or regular settlers, but only with the "Bostons," or volunteers. They even requested Capt. Smith of Fort Lane to prevent the atrocious cruelties in killing women and children for, said they, "We do not so in our wars, and shall not hurt yours if you let ours alone."
It is quite natural that the simple mind of the Indian should be credulous, and when deceived suspicious, particularly in regard to chemicals. On one occasion a speculator, during an epidemic, procured a number of bottles of water scented with peppermint, and assured them it was an infallible cure, and charged a horse for a bottle; he soon got a drove for California where they were worth $50 to $100 each. I have heard of quite a number being poisoned with strychnine mixed with sugar, and exposed in some situation where they would be tempted to steal. I lately had an interview with a gentleman connected with the Hudson Bay Fur Company, who was a neighbor and intimate friend of Dr. Whitman at the time of his lamented death.
From him I learned the following particulars: Dr. Whitman was a true philanthropist and Christian, generally esteemed by all classes, but he had some bitter enemies (as every good man has). These took advantage of a time when the measles were prevalent (and, notwithstanding the doctor's medicines, terribly fatal among the Indians) to insinuate that the doctor gave them poison. Some of the Indians applied to their chief to enforce their own law, which is to kill the medicine man when the patient dies. The chief firmly resisted, but an enemy proposed to convince the chief of the nature of the medicine by giving some to two HEALTHY INDIANS, when they both suddenly died. (It is believed strychnine was privately mixed.) Such a proof the chief could not resist; his religion and his law, like that of Moses, demanded blood for blood. Frenzied with grief and rage, one of their number, whose wife had just died, seized an ax, and with others hastened to commit the fatal deed. But afterward this man asserted he had killed his best friend, and to this day the tribe reveres the memory of their fallen friend and teacher.
In view of these facts, how manifestly unjust it is in those who allude to this as a justification, especially when those who do it have sanctioned wrongs of larger magnitude against the very people whom they so grossly accuse! In conclusion, I cannot but express my deep regret that while Gen. Wool is very properly sustained, Gen. Palmer is dishonored and dismissed for occupying precisely the same ground. Like a noble, true-hearted man, in the midst of defamation, rowdyism and wrong, he defended the rights of those whom the lawless squatter sovereigns sought to destroy.
B.New York Daily Tribune, October 10, 1856, page 6
A Plea for the Indians: With Facts and Features of the
Late War in Oregon. By John Beeson.
This little pamphlet volume should have a wide circulation among the intelligent people of this country. It is truly "A Plea for the Indians," and is honest and deserved. Mr. Beeson, the writer, publishes it himself, and would be glad to receive orders at 15 Laight Street, New York.
The National Era, Washington, D.C.., May 28, 1857, page 2
'A PLEA FOR THE INDIANS.'
Westminster, June 22, 1857.Dear Friend Garrison:
With this I send a little work, entitled A Plea for the Indians, by John Beeson. I have had time to read only a small portion of the work, but from the little I have read, and what I know of the author, I have no doubt it will pay a perusal.
Mr. Beeson is a modest, unassuming man of worldwide philanthropy. The broad earth is his home, and his brethren "all mankind." In his love to the race, he knows no distinction of color, sex, sect or party. He is cool and discriminating in his judgment, clear and logical in his reasoning, and morally incapable of intentional deception. I say this from an acquaintance with the man rather than his book, which, as already stated, I have not read. Having lived for some time in Rogue River Valley, and seen the injustice done to the "red man," and feeling the deep damnation of this nation in its multiplied aggressions upon the weaker and defenseless races, he is now engaged in an effort to awaken sympathy and enlighten the public sentiment in relation to the "poor Indian," and see if something cannot be done to arouse this government to a sense of justice towards those it has ever despised and trampled upon. He is but little known in the world, and of very limited means. Thus far he has struggled alone against many discouragements. He has incurred a debt of some $200 in publishing his little book, which he has no means of meeting. Should you think favorably of the work, will you please give it a notice, and solicit orders therefor? Mr. Beeson's address is 15 Laight Street, New York. The price of the work is twenty-five cents, with the usual discount to the trade.
Fraternally yours, D. M. ALLEN.
The Liberator, Boston, Massachusetts, July 3, 1857, page 3
THE AMERICAN INDIAN AID ASSOCIATION.--This association held a public meeting on Monday evening, at Clinton Hall, Astor Place. Rather a small audience were in attendance, and they opened with the appointment of Dr. L. T. Warren chairman and R. W. Huntley secretary.
John Beeson, an elderly Englishman, who had spent twelve years in Oregon among the Indians, appealed to the audience for sympathy and aid in ameliorating their condition, giving numerous details relative to the impositions practiced upon them by many of the white settlers. Resolutions were afterward adopted, repudiating the views entertained by many of the manifest destiny of the Anglo-American race, which assume the necessity of a gradual extermination of the aboriginal tribes of this continent. The meeting also recommended the new society, "The American Indian Aid Association," to the confidence and support of the public.
New York Daily Tribune, October 14, 1857, page 7
No. 18 Lagrange Place BostonHon. Eli K. Price
October 28 1859
You will see by the enclosed that our movement in behalf of the Indians is making some headway, and I thought you would feel a pleasure to read as I do to communicate the knowledge of the fact.
I have had about the same process and nearly the same experience here as in Philadelphia, only I profited by what I learned in your city and was more cautious about allusion to Missouri and to pecuniary matters. But notwithstanding this the case is about the same, for a printed private circular was addressed to each of the 140 pastors of the city, inviting them specially to occupy the platform, as a public invitation to the same effect was given from the platform at the meeting, yet only one (a Unitarian) made his appearance, although there were quite a number in the gallery.
The circumstance was noticed by Wendell Phillips, who commenced his speech by saying that he appeared on the platform because he knew that the pastors would not and rather than a question of such magnitude should be left to be sustained by one alone he would do his part to help it onward. I have learned from several that they now regret their refusal to obey the invitation, as Phillips took the occasion to review missionary operations in general and denounced the whole as an insult to the common sense of the savage, affirming that the reason the Indians are not Christianized is because they are not depraved enough to accept it under the circumstances with which it is presented. So you see if I did not tell the whole truth it was told. And the Christians are now cowering under the rebuke. The result will be that when we call another mass meeting (as we shall do soon) the pastors will be on hand promptly in their place. One sign which is quite ominous is that Dr. Kirk, the president of the "American Tract Society," has asked me to prepare a tract in behalf of the Indian for the society to publish. (I shall do so next week.)
In regard to money I resolved to do as I did for the first two years after my leaving Oregon: Say little or nothing about it. The consequence is I am using up my own resources in paying for the use of halls and printing, distributing bills and books, traveling expenses, board and an extensive correspondence. Occasionally a small donation is given to me, but all that I have received since I have been in Boston during three months does not amount to more than one-fourth of what I have expended. I am now paying interest upon borrowed money. And the good people suppose that I am supported by the rich men of the Quaker City and of New York whose names are associated with me in this cause.
You are ready to say why don't you tell them the facts in the case? Because in the first place I am ashamed to tell the whole the very thought of a national association for an object so noble and so necessary and composed of the most influential men of two cities the most wealthy in the Union and this national association having but one agent actively employed and he living for the most part upon his own means, working for nothing in poverty and debt. I say all this is too humiliating for the public to know. And where I do tell it the feeling would be that the object is of no importance or if it was these wealthy and public-spirited gentlemen would give it a corresponding support.
I say I have profited by experience and rather than run the risk of offending my colleagues and fellow workmen here as I did in your city by telling them my necessities, I will suffer a little longer in silence. I know the time will come when that which is done shall be published from the housetop.
There is a society in Boston (composed for the most part of Unitarians) for the propagation of the Gospel among Indians and others I will meet next Thursday. I have placed in the hands of its secretary a written statement of my circumstances--places and prospects I have some hopes from the liberal and genial spirit which they have uniformly expressed towards me that some efficient aid will be given.
Believe me, dear sir, that I love my home and my family as much as others. I have not seen them for more than three years. This, as you know, is a sacrifice of some account to a man of sympathy, especially when I know that my grown-up son is uneducated and that the means which he had worked hard to accumulate for the purpose is now expended. But, serious as the consideration is, it weighs light against the retribution which I see impending upon the proprietors and silent approvers of the wrongs as indicated in the last news from California.
I shall be pleased to hear from your board and hope that it will determine to invite a national convention to be held in February 1860. I shall publish a first number at the convention as soon as I have $500 on hand and give the whole away in secret as specimen numbers.
INDIAN LECTURE BY FATHER BEESON.--Pursuant to notice given, quite a large and intelligent audience assembled at the courthouse last Monday evening to hear Father Beeson, the Indian philanthropist, lecture. On motion, the Hon. A. M. Rosborough, County Judge, was chosen chairman, and S. M. Farren secretary. The president stated the object of the meeting and introduced to the audience the Rev. Father Beeson, who spoke for more than an hour in a feeling manner in regard to Indian affairs. At the conclusion of his remarks, on motion, the president appointed a committee of three, consisting of the Rev. Guido Matassi, Rev. W. H. Cain and Rev. A. C. McDougal to draft a memorial to Congress for the people to sign. On motion, the meeting adjourned. We publish the memorial in another place [below].
The Semi-Weekly Union, Yreka, California, January 28, 1865, page 3
To the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress Assembled:
Your memorialists respectfully represent that the following statements, relative to the condition and treatment of the Indians, are sustained by reliable testimony, and it is believed that this state of Indian affairs is by far more the rule than the exception upon all the reserves.
Says the Rev. Mr. Spalding, long a missionary in Oregon among the Nez Perces:
"For several years the Indian reservation has been completely overrun with the whites; several towns and mining camps have sprung upon the reservation, and many farms, hay and wood claims and liquor shops are also established upon the Indians' land."
A late report of the California Association of Congregationalist Pastors affirms: "That unprincipled white men are permitted to corrupt and plunder and to SHOOT the Indians at will, and that any attempt to Christianize them will prove a hopeless task so long as they are left by government in their present condition."
It is also affirmed by men of good repute that the practical working of the Indian Department "has been, and is now, a political machine by which a set of thieving politicians have plundered the government, plundered the Indians and plundered the white settlers, and in place of being the means of enabling the Indians to provide themselves with shelter and food during the winter season, it has been the means of starving hundreds. They have been made to work and raise crops of grain, which grain has been hauled to market and sold, the proceeds going into the pockets of thieving agents," and, in case the Indians retaliate on their oppressors, they are regarded as monsters of wickedness fit only to be exterminated. Your memorialists, therefore, pray that as the Indians have lost confidence in the power and in the wish of our government to protect them in the enjoyment of their just rights, that a proclamation of amnesty and protection may be immediately issued for all Indians who cease hostility against the people and government of the United States, and that the Indian Department be instructed to arrange for holding councils with the various tribes as early as possible in such locations as will be most convenient for their representatives to attend, and that three commissioners be appointed by the President of the United States, in company with such others as may be delegated and sustained by philanthropic parties, to attend for the purpose of restoring confidence in friendly intercourse with them.
The object of these councils should be to give the Indians an opportunity to tell their own story as to the nature and extent of their grievances, and also to ascertain from them how many of the tribe will agree to live together in neighborly contact upon four reserves, two east and two west of the Rocky Mountains, and to make and administer their own laws assisted by such well-selected white families as the Indians may approve and desire to reside among them, and to be subject to the government of the United States as friendly allies, until such time as they are prepared to become American citizens.
Your memorialists would further pray that as all plans hitherto adopted for the elevation and protection of the Indians have (as a general thing) been but experiments and failures, that the course indicated in this memorial may be carried out in a spirit of generous magnanimity worthy of our people and acceptable to the race which, with us, are the rightful sharers in a common heritage.
The Semi-Weekly Union, Yreka, California, January 28, 1865, page 2
Col. Day, of the Indian Department
The monstrous and disgraceful purpose indicated in the resolves contained in the enclosed printed slip is my apology for writing to you.
It is precisely a similar case to that which started the Indian wars of Southern Oregon in 53-4-5 and which resulted in a long period of mutual massacre of both races and finally in a claim upon the government for six million one hundred thousand dollars. It has been my lot again and again to warn public officials of impending evil, and in every case where the warning has not been heeded the evil has come with a sorrow greater than was anticipated.
Now is it not possible for the Indian Department to stop these murderous propositions by a telegraphic proffer to investigate and punish the guilty but protect the innocent.
The frequent occurrence of suchlike scenes suggests the necessity of a radical change in existing conditions which shall make it impossible for them to occur, an outline of which I think I proposed to you in a former letter and need not now be repeated.
I am glad to be informed that some earnest measures in a right direction is being carried out on the Cherokee Reservation. How suchlike domains in suitable locations with a well-managed manual labor school and a community of interests with personal responsibility established upon them and such other aids as time and circumstances may indicate would doubtless be incalculably better than the present suicidal and disgraceful system.
The slip is cut from the Sacramento Union of August 31 [sic--actually August 24, 1867, page 2]. It suggested to me the propriety of writing a plea for the Indians, which I did, and carried the same to the editor of the Oregon Sentinel with an offer of ten dollars for its insertion, about a column and a half of matter. He answered, "No I have been denounced enough already for what I have published for Indians. I hate them; damn them; I wish that they were all dead, and I don't believe that there is ten men in the two counties (Jackson & Josephine) but what have the same feeling." I have reason to believe that this editor spoke as a representative for the great majority of people west of the Mississippi River. Well, this seems discouraging. But I believe notwithstanding there will be a better state of things as soon as the right plan is proposed and enforced by the proper authorities.
These difficulties do not arrive so much because the Indians are savages but because they are helpless and unprotected. Only secure thorough protection from insult and robbing, and at the same time provide them with means of self-sustainment thoroughly apart from the power of speculators, and I think the difficulty will end. It is my purpose to be in Washington early the coming winter, and if there is any business private or public in the service of the Indian Department on the Pacific Coast or more particularly in Oregon and Washington Territory I shall be happy to do it.
RespectfullyPhoenix Jackson Co. Oregon
Sep. 17th 1867
NARA Series M234 Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs 1824-81, Reel 615 Oregon Superintendency, 1866-1869, frames 378-381 The clipping referred to quotes a resolution by residents of Humboldt County, Nevada threatening extermination of local Indians in retaliation for the murder of a James A. Banks.
Chapinville, Litchfield Co., Conn.
Dec. 7--1872Hon. R. B. Cowen
I have just read in the New York Times the enclosed slip in regard to a war upon the Modoc Indians. Permit me to ask whether it would not be just and proper for government to stop that war until the facts in the case are fully known.
I ask this question because I have had much personal and painful experience with the class of men who get up Indian wars in that section of country. I located within three miles of "Ashland" (the place mentioned in the slip) in 1853 and soon became acquainted with the horrible cruelties practiced upon the Indians.
In 1855 three men came to my house with a paper for my signature to the effect that the Indians were robbing and murdering the settlers and appealing to the government to allow a volunteer company to be equipped for a campaign against them. I knew that the charges against the Indians was false, and I told the parties so; their answer was that "We can make more money by a war on the redskins than we can by digging for gold." So they got up a war and a subsequent claim on government for six million five hundred thousand dollars, which I believe has all been paid for carrying it on, although Gen. John E. Wool and Joel Palmer (Indian agent) allowed officially that it was got up by a class who were the disturbers of the peace and unworthy of the name of men.
From that time to the present I have good reason to believe that there are living plenty of people in California and Oregon who are ready to circulate the foulest falsehoods against the Indians merely to gratify their own depraved propensities.
I have no interest in writing this but a love of justice and a deep sympathy for the poor oppressed Indians, in proof of which I refer you to ex-Commissioner Dole of the Indian Department who allowed me an appointment which I then refused to accept because I knew that the Indian political ring was too strong for me to do any good except in an independent capacity. But relations are now changed, and as my name and position is known all over Oregon and generally throughout the country I believe that it would have a good moral effect upon all classes for me to be one of a commission to investigate the cause of this reported raid by the Indians in Oregon.
I can give you a long list of honorable names who have more or less sympathized with me in behalf of the Indians at different periods during the last eighteen years, among whom are
"The Indians should have his first attention and that he would not rest until I was satisfied with the justice that they should have."
Please send to my address at your earliest convenience the report of the Indian Department.
Yours respectfullyNARA Series M234 Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs 1824-81, Reel 617 Oregon Superintendency, 1872, frames 59-62.
To the Editor of the Inter Ocean:
I notice that John Beeson has been giving addresses on the wrongs of the Indians. He is an aged man, and has spent his life in works of benevolence, and is now known as Father Beeson. Forty years ago I knew him as a prairie farmer on the Vermilion River, in LaSalle County, where he made the acquaintance of Benjamin Lundy, and became a zealous abolitionist.
I lost track of him until some years later, when I heard of him in the Far West residing among the Indians, and acting as their friend and adviser. He has made himself familiar with their history and the outrages that have been perpetrated upon them. He is now known as the pioneer in the cause of the wronged red man, as Benjamin Lundy was the pioneer in the cause of the enslaved black man. May the day of the triumph of his cause come, even more speedily than came to the world the cause for which Lundy spent his days. He has traveled over the country and spent years with the Indians, among their tribes, and at Washington, vainly endeavoring to get justice done them. Near the close of the war he had an interview with President Lincoln upon the subject of the wrongs inflicted upon the Indians, and Mr. Lincoln gave him this note:
"My aged friend, I have heard your statement, and have thought much and said little, but I assure you that as soon as the business of this war is settled, the Indians shall have my first attention, and I will not rest until they shall have justice with which both you and they will be satisfied."
ABRAHAM LINCOLN.This note was written but a few months before his assassination, and no President has yet followed him who could not rest until he had seen that justice was done the Indians. Let us do what we can to aid Father Beeson, my aged friend, and second the wishes of our dead President in securing justice, protection and satisfaction to the aborigines.
Z. EASTMAN.Daily Inter Ocean, Chicago, September 27, 1879, page 7
FATHER BEESON, the Indian's friend, in a letter from Oregon expressing his appreciation of our publications, writes: "I have spent twenty-five years and a fortune in behalf of justice for the Indians and have not yet got it. And if I had another fortune I would willingly spend it for the promotion of this prior object (referring to the education of the people in sexual subjects and heredity). I now see that the whites cannot be just toward the Indians until they learn to be just to themselves--their wives and children. I consider," says Father Beeson, "that right conception and right antenatal surroundings are the first necessities for true progress."
Jackson Citizen Patriot, Jackson, Michigan, July 7, 1883, page 3
DEATH OF JOHN BEESON.
John Beeson died at the home of his son, near Talent, Jackson County, Oregon, on Sunday, April 21, in the 86th year of this age. He was born in Nottinghamshire, England, Sept. 5, 1803, and came to the United States in 1830. In 1833 he and his wife moved to La Salle County, Illinois, and in 1853 they and their son Welborn Beeson came to Oregon, across the plains, and settled in Rogue River Valley. "Father Beeson," as he was familiarly known, was in many respects an exceptional character. He was a humanitarian in every respect, and was a worthy progenitor of Henry Bergh, and with the latter's vast wealth he would have anticipated him many years in his reforms among the lower animals. He, at an early time, took up the cause of the "wronged and oppressed" red men, and when the Indian war was raging in Eastern and Southern Oregon in 1855-6, such was the earnestness of his appeals in their behalf that he incurred the hostility of the settlers in his immediate neighborhood, who hardly dared to venture outside their dwellings without becoming targets for Indian rifles. To save his life he fled to the protection of the military, and under their charge he made his way down into the Willamette Valley, finally reaching Oregon City, where he found a refuge in the hospitable home of W. L. Adams, to whom he was a total stranger. Here he remained until he raised means to take him to Boston. In that city he fell into the midst of fellow philanthropists, men and women of a kindred feeling to his own. A paper devoted to the interests of the Indian race was started, and John Beeson was one of the principal contributors. His fertile brain and busy pen were devoted to showing up the wrongs suffered by the noble red men and advocating measures for the amelioration of their condition and for their civilization and education. Father Beeson was untiring in this direction, and there is no doubt that much of the progress made in advancing the educational interests of the Indians which we now witness under the charge of the national government is due mediately [sic] to the persistent efforts of this philanthropic gentleman. After some years spent at the East he returned to Oregon, to his former home, where he remained until his death. In 1856, he seemed to the writer a typical William Penn, with his long white hair, clear, glassy eye, and his Quaker appearance generally. He was a "reformer," but it was of the backwoods style, and he would have made his mark as a pioneer Methodist circuit rider. His ideas were crude and cast in a mould that lacked cultivation in youth; they frequently came out in a jumbled mass, and lacking proper coherence. In religious belief he was early a Methodist, then a Universalist, then a Spiritualist, and finally was afflicted with softening of the brain. As the Tidings says, he will be remembered by all who knew him as one of those who tried to live by the "golden rule," and who was always quick to respond to the appeals of the unfortunate or the afflicted.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, May 3, 1889, page 4
During the Rogue River war of 1855-6, a man named John Beeson attracted a good deal of attention by writing letters to the newspapers attacking the whites and defending the Indians.
Beeson was a foreigner by birth, but a naturalized citizen of the United States, who had in 1853 come from Illinois to the Rogue River Valley. He said in his letters that the Indians were a friendly, hospitable and generous race, and that the war of 1853 and the one then raging were justifiable on the part of the Indians and atrocious on the part of the whites--and he supported his views by quotations from United States officers and Dr. John McLoughlin.
He lampooned the Democratic Party of Oregon, was censorious toward Governor Curry and his advisers, and exceedingly unjust to the people of Southern Oregon. In short, he made himself hated by practically all the whites.
Beeson then began writing for the San Francisco Herald, and, the fact becoming known that he was aiding in the spread of the prejudice already created against the people of Oregon by the military reports of such men as General Wool and some of his subordinate officers, public meetings were held to express indignation.
Invited to one of them, in Southern Oregon, without notification of the purpose, Beeson had the mortification of having read one of his letters to the Herald, which had been intercepted for the purpose, together with an article in the New York Tribune supposed to emanate from him, and of listening to a series of resolutions severely condemnatory of him. He wrote of this meeting:
"Fearing violence, I fled to the fort (Fort Lane) for protection, and was escorted by the U.S. troops beyond the scene of excitement."
Beeson published a book of 143 pages in 1853, called "A Plea for the Indians," in which he boasted of the protection given him by the troops, "who," he said, "seemed to regard the volunteers with contempt."
Apparently finding his subject acceptable to some classes, he followed up the "Plea" with "A Sequel," containing an "Appeal in Behalf of the Indians; Correspondence with the British Aboriginal Aid Society; Letters to Rev. H. W. Beecher, in Which Objections Are Answered; Review of a Speech by the Rev. Theodore Parker; A Petition in Behalf of the Citizens of Oregon and Washington Territories for Indemnity on Account of Losses Through Indian Wars; An Address to the Women of America," etc.
In addition Beeson delivered lectures on the "Indians of Oregon" in Boston, where he advocated his peculiar views.
At one of these lectures he was confronted by a citizen of Washington Territory.
The Statesman of Dec. 23, 1853, contained an article to the effect that in a meeting addressed by Beeson at the Cooper Institute, New York, he was confronted and his assertions disputed by Captain Fellows of Oregon. This was Albert M. Fellows, one of the four organizers on July 4, 1852, of the First Congregational Church of Salem, who had been a member as first lieutenant of Company F, mounted volunteers, mostly from Marion County, in the Yakima War of 1855-6. When Bennett was killed in battle, Lieutenant Fellows was raised to the position of captain. Bennett, as most readers know, was one of the three Salem men who were the discoverers of gold in California; built the famous Bennett House, where the Masonic temple, Salem, now stands, was one of the earliest steamboatmen on the upper Willamette, and in other ways was a leader of affairs in early Oregon.
It was said that in 1860 Beeson was about to start a paper in New York City, to be called the Calumet.
In 1863 he endeavored to get an appointment in the Indian Department, but, being opposed by the Oregon senators, failed. He certainly would fail. B. F. Harding was at that time junior senator from Oregon, and had been the last territorial secretary of state; held the last-named office while the Yakima and Rogue River Indian wars were being fought, and of course knew what a fool, if not a scoundrel, Beeson was.
The senior U.S. Senator was J. W. Nesmith, who was colonel of volunteers in the Yakima War and a captain and interpreter in the 1853 Rogue River War, and had fought the Rogues before; and knew more about Indians by actual experiences than Beeson could have imagined in his wildest dreams; experiences dating back to the covered wagon train journey of 1843. Of course, with that opposition, Beeson failed ingloriously in getting the job he sought.
R. J. Hendricks, "Bits for Breakfast," Statesman Journal, Salem, January 13, 1934, page 4
Last revised May 31, 2017