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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Diary of B. F. Dowell
Benjamin Franklin Dowell sporadically kept a diary from June 20, 1851 until April 1868, surviving in his memorandum books among the Dowell papers in the special collections of the University of Oregon. Sections relating to Southern Oregon are transcribed below. His diary covers these periods:
June 20, 1851, Abiqua Creek, Oregon to August 11, 1851. Dowell teaches school beginning July 28, 1851 "in the neighborhood of John S. Hunt" "on the main road leading from Salem to Hall's ferry." The diary is followed by attendance records through Oct. 1851.
   

April 10, 1852, Lebanon, Oregon to April 25, 1851, on the banks of the Rogue River. Dowell travels south to the gold fields--transcribed below.
   

January 1, 1855 to January 21, 1856 and April 7, 1856 to December 30, 1856. Dowell operates a pack train, mostly in Dalles and Yakima Valley area--partly transcribed below.
   

January 1, 1857 to July 30, 1857. Dowell travels from Oregon City to St. Helens to San Francisco to Aspinwall to Washington, D.C. and back, ending in transit off the coast of California at Big Sur
   

January to April 1868. Dowell is in Washingon, D.C. again. The diary consists mostly of his notes taken during President Andrew Johnson's impeachment hearings.

April 10th 1852
    This day I left Lebanon, Marion County, O. Territory for the gold mines on Rogue River. Good gravelly roads nearly all day. Stayed all night at M. C. Kinney two miles north of Albany. Tolerable good place and good citizens, but they are all
dissatisfied and want to sell their place for what it cost them last fall. They intend going to Rogue River whether they sell or not. If they cannot sell they say they intend leaving their place--21 miles.
Sunday [April 11]
   
 By directions we left Albany to the right and got into some very bad road in a large prairie lying east of Albany. Traveled 23 miles but only 16 miles on our road.
April 12
    Continued up the bank of the Willamette all day over tolerable good road. Stayed all night at Spose's, at the upper crossing of the Willamette, good place for ourselves but a bad place for our horses.
    Dr. Tischler [?] is at work on Josephine Creek west of the north fork about 5 miles and then made across towards the south fork over a bad hill. [illegible] ranch on [illegible] Smith River below the crossing of Rogue River.
13
    Came to Mr. James Chapin's at the foot of the Calapooia Mountain. Saw several men from the mines. Dove is on Pecommon Creek 12 miles from Picket's ranch. Traveled 26 miles.
14
    Came up with 5 men from Oregon City, Mr. Jefferson Howell and John McReynolds, who worked for James Pittman last winter. Camped at the foot of the Calapooia Mountain.
    It being rainy and muddy we concluded to remain with them all day. This is the first time we have ever stopped out of a house where there was no women to get our supper &c.
Swiftly we glide o'er the slippery mud;
Quickly past rivals and mud holes we go;
Oh what is the pleasure with this can compare
When the girls, the dear girls
Our pleasures will not share.
Bright beams the moon,
And yon glimmering star
Shines but to guide us in safety afar
Light are the evenings and fleet is our steed
Few can surpass him in kindness or speed.
Hurrah for the damsels with blushing red face;
Lighten be sorrow and care as when she's nigh;
If there is aught that can cheer and sustain us in woe
To the words of true feeling that from her lips flow
Swiftly we glide &c.
28 miles.
15
    Crossed the Calapooia Mountain and arrived at Wm. H. Wilson's by 4 o'clock in the evening--16 miles.
16
    Came in 4 miles up North Umpqua close to a dwelling house and grocery--26 miles.
17
    Came over some bad roads and rough hills, but saw the best grass that I have ever seen in any country. Camped on South Umpqua. 27 miles.
18
    Crossed over South Umpqua and Cow Creek and camped at the mouth of the canon. Good grass and water. Here is a good trading post.
19
    We remained all day at the canon prospecting and we found good coarse gold [illegible] to the road towards Cow Creek about one mile west of the canon.
20
    Came through the canon 8 miles south of the 1st house--20 miles.
21
    Camped at the old crossing of Rogue River, good grass and water out of the river--30 miles.
22
    Continued up the river to the gold diggings at the Willow Springs--25 miles.
23
    Spent the day prospecting, but found but little gold and then returned to the upper crossing of the river--14 miles.
24
    Came down the river again and crossed the river at the old crossing again, and continued down the river to Perkins' ranch. 25 miles.
25
    Early this morning we came to where 3 young men were mining on the north side of Rogue River on a bar. The gold fine and we can get some every panful--5 miles.

Flour 14 lb.
Bacon 5 lb.
    The price of gold was weighed by Beekman and it weighs $2.50 cents at 16 dollars an ounce or 2.65⅝ at 17 dollars an ounce.

P. J. Ryan
    Dr. to B. F. Dowell
5 pair shoes 2 10.00
4  do.     do.  1 5.00
1 shirt 1.00
4 pair boots 50
                      25
3⅞ yds. silk 1.75
Jacksonville June 27th
Messrs. Walker & Co.
    Dr. to B. F. Dowell
For 1 box cigars 1.50
" 1 keg whiskey 25.00
" 25 lbs. sugar 20 5.00
" 25 lbs. coffee 30     7.50
$44.00


Monday, 7 [April 1856].
    I bought this book for one dollar and fifty cents.
Tuesday, 8.
Crescent City.
    I wrote to G. or S. Gilbert of San Francisco to buy a fine album and forward it to I. Taylor, Yreka Cal. and I endorsed ten dollars to pay of the same.
Wednesday, 9.
    The steamer Columbia arrived and left after dark for Portland O.T.
Thursday, 10.
Crescent City.
    My train arrived and the little steamer Newport arrived and left.
    I have been very sick all day.
Saturday, 12.
Crescent City.
    Lines inadvertently left by a young lady in her hymnbook in church:
I look in vain--he does not on me
    Dear, dear, what shall I do!
I cannot listen as I ought,
    Unless he listens too!
He might have come as well as not!
    What plagues these fellows are!
I'll bet he's fast asleep at home,
    Or smoking a cigar!
Monday, [May] 5.
    C. C. Beekman can give an account of Cel Ford's horse which he lost last fall.
Saturday 10.
    I stayed all night last night at the Klamath House on the Klamath River.
Sunday, 11.
    I returned to Jacksonville O.T. from Yreka, late in the evening. I stayed all night at Mr. Wait's mill.
Thursday, 15.
    I had a fight with [blank] Armstrong. He had previous warned me to leave town, and had told Mr. [blank] Richardson that he intended to kill me upon sight. However the fight ensued, but no one was hurt much.
Friday [June] 6.
    Received of P. Howell eleven hundred and forty-eight (1148) dollars for A. H. Whitley of Polk County O.T. forty ($40) dollars for the Messrs. Means [?] of Salem O.T. twelve dollars for W. C. Griswold of Salem O.T. and thirty-five dollars for Jones of the firm of Jones, Cooke & Co. Salem O.T.   
    The dust is six hundred ($600) dollars at 16 30/100 dollars for ounce.
Sunday, 8.
    The Oregonian of January 26th 1856 contains that Indian intercourse law.
Tuesday, 10.
    Letter & money to B. Stark at Portland. Pay $5 to Mr. L. Adams at Oregon City for the Argus & salmodista collection of vocal music for Mrs. Miller.
Wednesday, 11.
    The Jacksonville Sentinel of May 24th 1856 states that Joel Palmer, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon, appointed L. F. Grover, A. C. Gibbs and Geo. H. Ambrose a board of commissioners to assess the damages of the Indians in the Rogue River Indian [War] of 1853.
Friday, 13.
    Amount settled in Dove's note to E. Wait one hundred and eleven dollars and seventy eight cents.
Saturday, 14.
    Received those notes on Geer.
Thursday, 19.
    I arrived at Portland O.T. with Dr. McCombs and Dr. Joseph Drew.
Memorandum books 2 and 20, B. F. Dowell Papers, University of Oregon Special Collections Ax031



Last revised January 22, 2016