The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

La Fayette Grover

La Fayette Grover's Statement
Time and Place--Bancroft Library
    San Francisco, Sat., July 13th, 1878
Present--Grover, Bancroft & writer, A.B.
Personale--Tall and slender. Stature 5 ft 10 to 6 feet. Light complexion, full beard
    and mustache; hair partially gray. Blue eyes. Long and narrow head; sharp face;
    prominent, well-formed nose, high at the bridge. Deliberate, manly speech,
    good voice, and polished manner.
    I was away serving in Rogue River as a commissioner appointed by the Department of the Interior to audit the Indian war spoliation claims of the Rogue River region in 1853. The Indians broke out there in 1853 and burned all the houses in that country and killed a great many of the people, and the government assumed to compensate the settlers for their losses. They withheld the amounts from the annuities of the Indians. That was in the winter of 1854-5, at Jacksonville, that the commission sat. Every house had burnt from what is known as the Cañon up to T'Vault's house, at what is now called Dardanelles--through the Umpqua Mountains. There were several houses and quite a number of settlements all along that road. Every house was destroyed, and several people were murdered. All through the valley of the Rogue River there was a general destruction of residence property by the Indians, and the people were forted up at Dardanelles and at one point in the upper valley and were gathered into Jacksonville for safety.
    When these Indian hostilities were suppressed by the settlers with some aid from Willamette Valley in arms and ammunition, one company of men of which ex-Senator Nesmith was the captain and I was 1st lieutenant, and the present Indian agent at Umatilla Reservation, Major Connoyer was the 2nd lieutenant; we went out there and helped them to suppress the Indians. Gen. Jo Lane commanded all the volunteers. The old general was badly shot in the left arm near the shoulder in the battle of the mountains there, back of Table Rock. A good many whites were killed, and a good many Indians.
    After a good deal of skirmishing and some hard fighting the principal battle being this battle of the mountains, the Indians sent in word that they wanted to make peace, but that they would do it on one condition: that there should be only five men to come to talk about peace, and the whites should come out to their place near this Battle Mountain, six miles away from any troops. Prior to that the whites down on Applegate Creek had got a band of Indians in there to talk peace. They made a great feast and lured them in to have a talk, but while the Indians were eating their feast a set of rough men went in and killed about all of them, without notice. Gen. Lane was reminded of this circumstance when this word came in, and he said that old Joe and old Sam--the one was the war chief and the other the chief of peace--sent him word to come out there with others to talk about making a peace. And he said he would go out there and talk with them. They were to go unarmed, and no troops were to be within six miles of the place.
    He went around the camp to see who would like to go out there and make this talk. He said he wanted men who would not be afraid to go, and who would not get excited if they met with any difficulty. They went altogether without arms. Gen. Palmer, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, was to be one. He was present. Gen. Lane invited me to go and invited Capt. Smith of the regular army, who was there with a few regulars--the late Major General A. J. Smith, in the late war. He invited Mr. Metcalfe, who was connected with the Indian agency there locally, and one other as interpreter. And we went out there. We found the Indians drawn up in the form of a horseshoe; these two old chiefs at the head of the horseshoe and the warriors sitting all around here with their rifles loaded and capped in their hands. And we went into this horseshoe. When we first got there everything looked very solemn and morose, and there was not a word said to us, or to each other. We did not say a word to each other. It looked very black and dangerous. After a while there was a daughter of the old chief called Mary, Queen Mary. She was the wife of an Umpqua chief called Joe. She spoke to our interpreter, and after she had talked to the father some time she told the interpreter that the council could go on, that there was a difficulty, but it was not mainly on account of objecting to peace. But her father Joseph had intermarried into the tribe of the Rogue Rivers; he was an Umpqua, and that his ancestors were the original occupants of all the country north of the Siskiyou Mountains up to the Umpqua Mountains, and they were all called Umpquas, and that Jim, her husband, was the only surviving hereditary chief of the great chief of the Umpquas, who owned all that land, that the Rogue Rivers were interlopers, that her father originated from a northern California chief of Pit River Indians, who were more warlike, and Jim's people having already had a good deal they came in on to this part of the old original Umpqua domain and held it, that that feud had been settled by their marriage.
    Now Jim had not been consulted. He wanted peace, but he had not sent word that he would make peace. He had not sent word to that council and had not been consulted about treating in regard to his country. He was not there. These other Indians did not dare to go on without him. They knew that his right was a good one, and out of courtesy he claimed to be the first to be consulted and that he should be considered as the principal chief. Gen. Lane told them they must go and get that chief. He was twenty miles away. So we waited all that time, and they sent for him. In the meantime they began to pass the pipe around, which showed that they were going to make peace in earnest. Everybody must smoke the pipe--all the head Indians, and the five men that came there.
    In the meantime the Indians began to gather around and showed where they had been shot in the war. We saw that we could make a treaty.
    Directly Jim came in with post horses. He was very much on his dignity. All was silent again when Chief Jim came in. Jim stood in silence again in this horseshoe. He would take a seat with nobody.
    I recollect he stood up there like a native orator, and began to talk. He spoke at least half an hour in the Indian dialect. There was no jargon about it. You never heard the most polished orator use more perfect intonations and gestures--and the effect it had [on] them was the effect of true oratory. He was recounting the history of his forefathers, and asserting his authority before those chiefs. He gave an affecting history and stated that they had settled it by marrying Queen Mary; she had his heart and she had his hand. Then they made a kind of love feast and went on and killed a fatted ox, and that was the great occasion of making a general treaty.
    Then old Chief Joseph got up. He made his speech in his own tongue. He made his speech for us, and it was interpreted to us. He said, "We have sent for you to come here to make a treaty of peace. We intend what we say. A few days ago some white men sent for the Indians to come into Applegate Creek to have a talk and to make peace. They went and while they were eating their feast the white men came in and killed them all. Now here you are, five of you. We sent for you to come here, and to leave the soldiers behind, six miles off. We told you to come without arms, that we wanted to make peace. We intended what we said. The white men killed the Indians when they said that to them. You are 5 and we are 200 all armed. We could kill you all now." But the Indian chief meant what he said: "The Indian is nobler than the white man." He spread himself up there and looked really a nobleman.
    Old Joe Lane said, "He makes a d---d hard case for us, don't he?" He said to the chief, "There are bad white men and bad Indians. The mistake your Indians made was that they listened to bad white men. They ought to go to the chief men of the whites. If you had come to us we would have treated you right."
    We had no guarantee of our lives when we started on this trip, only what Gen. Lane said--that he had faith in old Chief Joseph and Sam. He said, "I am going; now who will go with me?" He went around the camp and asked us if we would go. It was just such a situation as Thomas and Canby were in. They had the same opportunity, in fact better. There were but few Indians there. They came out between the forces. There were only the same number of Indians as white men and the principal forces were separate. Why, we were entirely at the mercy of the Indians. We were really unarmed; had no pistols, nor anything. Pistols would not have done us any good. We just had red shirts on that is all, and no means of concealing weapons. Red hunting shirts were the custom of the country. Jo Lane had a red hunting shirt on, and I had one on. I do not recollect how Gen. Smith and Palmer were dressed.
    That was the basis of permanent peace so far as that part of the tribe was concerned. A few years afterward Chief John made a difficulty, and he was transported down here to Benicia one time. He was kept there some time. You recollect he tried to take a steamer coming down. He and his son attempted to capture the steamer. That was quite an episode.
    Chief John after making his war in 1854-5 [sic] was captured and taken to Fort Vancouver. I was over there a day or two after he arrived. He was sitting there and had chains on. He looked up to me and said in his jargon, "A few days ago I was a great chief; now I am a dog." That is all he said.
*      *      *
    I had to go to Jackson as one of three--I was president of the commission appointed by the Interior Department to audit and assess the claims of settlers for the destruction of their property by Indians during the war of 1853. All of the old settlers came before our board to testify. We took depositions as to all the items of property lost by them and the amounts in value. That record, if it were printed, might furnish some resources for the history of that time.
La Fayette Grover, Notable Things in a Public Life in Oregon, 1878

Last revised November 8, 2013