Port Orford 1856
and the massacre at Gold Beach.
October 1856 Harper's Monthly
Port Orford O.T. Oct. 28 1855.The disturbed state of affairs in regard to the frequent depredations that are now being committed by the Indians in Rogue River Valley renders a short communication from this place necessary. No fears are apprehended, however, from the Indians in this vicinity, while they are vigilantly watched by our present efficient and energetic Indian agent, Capt. Benj. Wright, who is ever watchful and indefatigable in the close observation of the high responsible duties of his office. The depredations thus far committed have been all between what is called big bend on Rogue River and the ferry at the crossing of the Oregon trail leading to Jacksonville.
The Indians living in this vicinity named have declared open war against the whites, and thus far they have killed every white man within their reach. Some friendly Indians who have left the band report something over thirty white men have been murdered, and all their effects have fallen into the hands of the belligerents, comprising animals, gold dust and coin, amounting in all to over one hundred thousand dollars.
A company of volunteers is now ready to march from this place, and another from the mouth of Rogue River. The two companies will act in concert with the one from this place.
In addition to the white men murdered, a company of Chinamen, numbering seventy men, have also been murdered. More anon.
CLINTON. [William Clinton Tichenor?]Daily Alta California, San Francisco, November 1, 1855, page 1
VOLUNTEERS.--For some days past there has been quite an active demand in this city for volunteers to fill up the companies authorized to be raised by Governor Curry. We are told that eight or ten men enlisted with Capt. O'Neil from Althouse. Capt. J. M. Poland of Company K, 2nd Regiment O.M.V., before leaving, requested us to inform persons wishing to join his company to report to him at the camp, mouth of Rogue River, where the company was expected to be mustered into service, perhaps as early as the 22nd inst.
Crescent City Herald, February 20, 1856, page 2
Port Orford, 10 o'clock nightGeneral:
February 24th 1856
I have just returned from a meeting of the citizens called together by the startling intelligence from Rogue River. The volunteers, having moved down from the Big Bend, were camped near the spot on which we rested last before leaving the treaty ground--a part of them only were in camp; the balance were at the mouth of Rogue River. At the dawn of day on the 22nd inst. the camp was surprised and every man killed, as now believed, but two, one escaping to the mouth and one to Port Orford on foot through the hills--arriving here tonight. The one who came in (Charles Foster) escaped by crawling into the thicket and there remaining until dark, and there had an opportunity to witness unperceived much that transpired: He states that he saw the Tututnis engaged in it, who sacked their camp. The party were estimated by him to number 300. Ben Wright is supposed--with Capt. Poland and others--to be amongst the killed. Ben and Poland had gone over to Maguire's house (our warehouse). He had word from the Mikonotunnes that the notorious Eneas (half-breed) was at their camp & that they wished him to come and take him away, and he was on that business. Foster distinctly heard the yelling and the conflict of arms in the direction of the house at the time of the attack and murder of the camp. * * *
My opinion is that Wright is killed. * * *
Every ranch but Lundy's has been sacked and burned, and all still as death. * * *
Dr. White saw many of the bodies lying on the beach (bodies of white men) and went by Geisel's ranch and found the house burned and the inhabitants killed. * * *
Our town is in the greatest excitement. We are fortifying, and our garrison being too weak to render aid to Rogue River, the major (Reynolds) is making arrangements for protection here, & has sent Tichenor with a request that all abandon R. River and ship to Port Orford. * * *
Many strange Indians have made their appearance, well armed, & have actually committed many depredations. * * *
We build a fort tomorrow, in which all are engaged in good earnest--all have enrolled themselves for self-protection, and a night patrol is set. * * *
Yours in haste
R. W. Dunbar.
Frames 506-508, National Archives Microfilm Publications Microcopy No. 234 Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs 1824-81, Reel 609 Oregon Superintendency, 1856.
Fort Orford O.T.Capt.,
February 24th 1856
I have the honor to enclose a copy of a letter this day received from the actg. Indian agent at the mouth of Rogue River, containing information of the outbreak of the lower Rogue River Indians, and the murder of the Indian agent Mr. Wright by the last steamer I notified you of the appearance of the hostile Indians among the tribes bordering on the settlement at the mouth of Rogue River, and that I had sent Lieut. Chandler with the agent to bring down to the mouth of the river, all those who were friendly, which was effected in all apparent good faith on the part of the Indians. Mr. Wright returned about this time and was perfectly satisfied as to the friendly disposition of these Indians and that they seemed [to] adhere to their agreement with Genl. Palmer to move on the Reserve this summer, and I supposed myself that could they be kept from intercourse with the hostile Indians they would remain friendly, and was consequently very anxious to assist Mr. McGuire in effecting this.
That the present outbreak is extreme and serious in this quarter there is not the slightest doubt involving all the Indians on Rogue River and some of the coast Indians. One of the men (Mr. Foster) from the scene of the attack has reached this place, and represents the number of persons killed or missing at 21 or 22, and the Indians engaged at between two and three hundred. The following is the list of whites missing from the mouth of Rogue River and vicinity. Benj. Wright, Indian agent, Capt. J. M. Poland, B. Castle, H. Lawrence, E. Nelson, Guy Holcomb, McCluskey, Joseph _____, John Chadwick, _____ missing, Joseph Wagoner, Pat McCulloch, Warner, Mr. Tullis, _____ Seaman, _____ Smith, Geisel and family, _____ Bostman, Jas. Crouch and brothers, _____ Johnson, _____ Martin.
I will state that I do not deem it prudent to accede to the request of Mr. McGuire to divide this small command between the two places and wrote to him to say that if they were unable to maintain their position at the mouth of the river, they must concentrate here. We have no animals here fit to move even this small command had it been expedient. I will send a copy of this letter to the comdg. office at Vancouver by the str. as she goes up, also one to Genl. Palmer.
I am sirTo Capt. D. R. Jones
Very respectfully your obt. servt.
John F. Reynolds
Capt. Brvt. Maj. 3 Arty.
A.A.G. Hd. Qrs. Dep. of the Pacific
NARA M2, Microcopy of Records of the Oregon Superintendency of Indian Affairs 1848-1873, Reel 14; Letters Received, 1856, enclosure to No. 89.
From our Extra of Monday.
Arrival of the Schooner Gold Beach.
Indian Hostilities at the Mouth of Rogue River--The Indians at Gold Beach District in Arms--Their Descent upon the Settlement 4 Miles Above the Mouth--Some 20 of the Settlers and their Families Killed--The South Side of the Settlement in Flames--130 Whites Fortified on the North Side.
EXPECTED FIGHT WITH THE INDIANS, NUMBERING OVER 300.
Yesterday (Sunday) morning, as we were favored with the perusal of a letter written by Robert Smith, a settler up the coast, to Mr. Miller, living in the neighborhood of Whaleshead, informing the latter that on the 22nd inst., while Wm. Hensley and Mr. Nolan were driving some horses towards Rogue River, two shots were fired at them by Pistol River Indians. Mr. Hensley had two of his fingers shot off, besides receiving several buckshot wounds in his face. The horses fell into the hands of the Indians.
The letter contains also a request to urge forward from Crescent City any volunteers that may have been enlisted.
----From F. H. Pratt, Esqr., a resident at the mouth of Rogue River, who arrived last night in the schooner Gold Beach, we receive the startling news that the Indians in that district have united with a party of the hostile Indians above and commenced a war of extermination against the white settlers.
The station at Big Bend, some 15 miles up the river, having been abandoned several weeks previous, the Indians made a sudden attack on Saturday morning, Feb. 23rd upon the farms, about four miles above the mouth, where some ten or twelve men of Capt. Poland's company of volunteers were encamped, the remainder of the company being absent, attending a ball on the 22nd, at the mouth of Rogue River.
The fight is stated to have lasted nearly the whole of Saturday, and but few of the whites escaped to tell the story. The farmers were all killed.
It is supposed there are now about 300 hostile Indians in the field, including those from Grave and Galice Creek and the Big Meadows. They are led by a Canada Indian named Enos, who was formerly a favorite guide for Col. Fremont in his expeditions.
LIST OF KILLED.Crescent City Herald, February 27, 1856, page 2
The inhabitants at the mouth of Rogue River have all moved to the north side of the river, where formerly, under the apprehension of a sudden attack, a fort had been erected; they number about 130 men, having less than a hundred guns amongst them.
The schooner Gold Beach left yesterday (Sunday) morning at half past five o'clock, and it is supposed that a fight commenced at daylight, as there was a party going to cross to the south side of the river, where they expected to find the whole body of Indians. At sunrise everything on the south side was in flames.
The stores of Coburn & Warwick, F. H. Pratt and W. A. Upton were probably all destroyed.
Mr. Pratt states that according to the census taken last spring, there are 335 warriors in the district. They were all engaged in the fight, except the Chetcos and Pistol River Indians, who number about 80. The number of Indians from above or out of the district is between 50 and 60.
Upon the death of the Sub-Indian Agent, Capt. Ben. Wright, Mr. J. McGuire assumed the duties of Sub-Indian Agent.
A boat was dispatched as early as Saturday evening to Port Orford to inform Maj. Reynolds, in command of that post, of the occurrences.
As a matter of reference for those not acquainted with the localities, we give the following table of distances up the beach:
Letter from Oregon.
(Through the kindness of one of our patrons,
we are permitted to copy the following letter from his brother in Oregon.)
Fort Orford, O.T., Feb. 29, 1856.Dear Brother:--In my last letter I expressed our fears of an Indian outbreak in this district unless reinforcements arrived so as to enable us to keep the friendly and hostile Indians separated. The former were induced to move further down the river, whence it was intended to remove them to the Indian reserve set apart for that purpose, as soon as possible. And they expressed their perfect willingness to go. The hostile bands retired, with their women and children, up the Illinois, a tributary of Rogue River, and we hoped that ere they were prepared to make a descent on this district, we should be sufficiently reinforced to repel them.
Captain Poland, whom I spoke of in my last as having assisted Lieut. Chandler of Fort Orford in bringing down the Big Bend Indians, was authorized by the Governor to organize his company and fill it up to 60 men. This he was endeavoring to do, his headquarters being within four miles of the mouth of Rogue River, where all the settlers of the southern part of the district had concentrated.
In consequence of the excitement in the northern part of the district, the detachment of regulars were obliged to leave the mouth of Rogue River to the charge of Capt. Poland's company and our excellent Indian agent, Ben Wright.
We of course placed little reliance upon the professions of the Indians in that neighborhood, unless we could get the anticipated reinforcements. But [we] were not prepared for the enormity of their treachery as developed on the evening of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd inst. when the volunteers and straggling settlers near the mouth of Rogue River were fallen upon by the Indians of that neighborhood, assisted by the hostile bands from above, and, so far as heard from, 26 men killed.
At a ranch half way between this and Rogue River were four men; two of these were killed, the others made a most marvelous escape, one reaching the settlers' fort at the mouth of the river, and the other this place. These two, and one of the volunteers, are all of those attacked who escaped being killed. Among the missing are Capt. Poland and the Indian agent, Ben Wright--two of the best and bravest men in the country. Poor. W. has died a martyr in his untiring efforts to keep peace among the Indians--and has always treated them justly. But the savage, when aroused, knows no mercy--and deep, hellish revenge and treachery are the motive powers of all their actions. The scenes of the last week are enough to erase every spark of sympathy for the Indian race from the bosoms of honorable men.
For the last few days we have been in hourly expectation of an attack on this place and the mouth of Rogue River, for the Indians have an idea that if they can wipe out the few settlers and troops at these two points, it will rid this section of the palefaces altogether. All communication by land between the two places is cut off. But yesterday, ten men left in a rowboat for Rogue River, and we will probably hear from them today.
I would add that about two-thirds of the Indians of this district have already joined the enemy, and the others will do so also, unless Col. Wright sends us reinforcements from upper Oregon. We are cut off from all communication from other settlements, except by the mail steamer, which is due here every two weeks, but rarely stops in winter. She passed here day before yesterday on her upward trip, and would not have stopped had she not caught fire and been compelled to make this as the nearest port. It served her right. I wish she would catch fire every time she neglects touching here when the weather is so favorable.
The Indians are led by Aeneas, a Canadian Indian who, from his constant association with the army and emigrants as guide, is thoroughly acquainted with all our habits and with every part of this country. Before it was known that he had turned traitor, he had succeeded in obtaining large quantities of ammunition from the merchants at the mouth of Rogue River, under the pretense of carrying it to the troops at Big Bend. He was with those men who were killed a few weeks ago, and pretended to have made a narrow escape, whereas he was the accomplice in their massacre. By the late massacre the enemy obtained some 35 guns. They are consequently better armed than the whites.
We have everything to fear from this demon. And he has probably already attacked the fort at the mouth of Rogue River. For all yesterday and today, dark columns of smoke have been seen rising up to heaven--showing that the savage torch is at work. Through a spyglass the fort can still be seen standing. As there are about a hundred men in it, they will probably hold out until the arrival of reinforcements. It is impossible for us to succor them, as our force consists of only thirty-odd men, who will have enough to do in keeping the enemy from the large supply of commissary and ordnance stores at this place, also to protect the distressed citizens now concentrated at Port Orford, who are much fewer in number than those at Rogue River.
You may rest assured we are constantly on the qui vive, especially as the enemy can approach to our very doors unperceived, through the thick forest that bounds our fort on the north and east. In a few days, however, we will have some of this dense growth down, and will be able to give Mr. Redskin a warm reception.
March 1st.Two brave fellows managed to reach here this morning from Rogue River. They represent things there to be in fully as bad a condition as anticipated. The Indians have made several attacks on the fort within the last few days--have burnt and destroyed all the houses and other property in the neighborhood, and it is said the woods are alive with them. All the hostile bands from upper Rogue River are there, together with the six or seven bands who joined them from this district. The citizens, however, are strongly posted on the sand beach a mile or two from any timber, and will doubtless be able to hold out till the steamer returns from the Columbia River, when, if reinforcements have not arrived, they will be taken to Crescent City, California, by the steamer.
The boat which left here day before yesterday was capsized on attempting to land at Rogue River, and eight of the ten men in it met a watery grave.
Government will be compelled to send some thousand men here ere these savages can be properly chastised. If she has not enough regulars, we must have more volunteers. Something must be done, and quickly.
The expressman says that two more of the volunteers made their way into Rogue River, but were nearly dead from severe wounds.
All of the 1,300 Indians in this district who have not yet joined the enemy have come within a few miles of this fort, and express great friendship. But we are satisfied from all the information we can glean that this is a part of their general plan, and that so soon as the enemy arrive they intend to join them. It would probably serve them right were we to pounce upon and kill every man of them. But this is not politic--not humane. Perhaps the best and only thing to be done, under the circumstances, is to let them alone, and should reinforcements arrive in time, they may be deterred from joining the enemy. I have no time to enter into the detail of the origin of the war. You will see from letters to you previous to any outbreak that the Indians have had much to complain of, but so far as those in this district are concerned, they have been kindly and justly treated, so long as the late Indian agent Ben Wright was in office. And yet the rascals pounced upon him as the first victim. Treachery is so predominant a trait in the Indian character that it alloys all others, and now, after more or less intercourse with different tribes for the last six years, I have come to the determination never to rely upon an Indian's good faith, unless circumstances or his passions enjoin him to keep it. My love to all.
Your BrotherFredonia Censor, Fredonia, New York, April 30, 1856, page 2
LATEST FROM THE SOUTH.
Umpqua Correspondence of the Statesman.
Deer Creek, March 12, 1856.
Friend Bush:--An express arrived here through the mountains last night from Port Orford with the news that one hundred men or more were surrounded in their entrenchment at the mouth of Rogue River by the Indians, without any chance of retreat, that the Indians already there number between three and four hundred. A whaleboat left Port Orford for the purpose of communicating with the whites, but was swamped in trying to land, and as fast as the crew came ashore they were killed by the Indians, only two making their escape.
Capt. Tichenor tried to approach them with his schooner Nelly but could not on account of the winds. It was said when my informant left that these men had but about four days provision.
This man says there are about eighty men at Port Orford including 30 U.S. troops. They have erected a fort by setting up planks about six inches apart and filling the space with earth. The people at Port Orford think they can stand a siege but expect the town will be burnt.
A rumor tonight says that the Coquille and Coos Bay bands have left for the mountains with the intention of joining the hostile Indians. If this be true all the property along the coast as far as the mouth of the Umpqua will be destroyed, as it is said the people at Coos Bay have no arms, what few they had being sent down the coast.
The messenger who brought this news here went south this morning to see Gen. Lamerick, hoping he would be able to send some men to the relief of the people on the coast.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, March 18, 1856, page 2
Port Orford Correspondence of the Statesman.
Port Orford, Feb. 25, 1856.
Editor Statesman--The Indian difficulties so long threatening, and so repeatedly sounded in our ears along the valley of Rogue River, have now in reality touched our vicinity. Our neighbors at the mouth of Rogue River, and those residing on the coast between this and that place, have met with an atrocious and melancholy fate. News by express, and also by one or two persons who escaped barely with their lives, after intense fatigue and hunger, was brought here that the Indians, comprising all or nearly all the different bands at the mouth of the river, attacked the whites at seven different points all within ten or twelve hours' time, and extending along the coast some ten or twelve miles. The company of volunteers organized under the proclamation of the governor, now encamped at the mouth of Rogue River for the purpose of filling up their company, and our Indian agent B. Wright, who it is greatly feared has also shared a similar fate, who was also on the ground, and not the slightest fears were entertained of any difficulty from the Indians, and quite a number of the volunteers were absent from the camp at the time of the attack, and it is not yet ascertained how many were absent from camp or how many were killed. We forbear mentioning names of persons who we suppose are killed, but we can without doubt record the names of Lorenzo Warner of Livonia, Livingston County, N.Y., Nelson Seamans of Cedarville, Herkimer Co., N.Y., John Geisel, his wife and five children, all their buildings burned and every mark of civilization destroyed.
The excitement is intense, and should we record every report we should extend our communication beyond a creditable length. At a subsequent time, and when the excitement passes off and a full statement of facts can be authentically ascertained, I will report in full.
Yours truly, JAS. C. FRANKLIN.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, March 18, 1856, page 2
IMPORTANT NEWS FROM PORT ORFORD.
Capt. Ben Wright, Indian Agent, Killed.
TWELVE MEN ATTACKED--10 KILLED!
THE INDIANS 300 STRONG!
All Well Armed with Rifles and Revolvers.
The Settlements Burned and People Murdered.
PORT ORFORD WITHOUT DEFENSES, AND THE PEOPLE
AT THE MERCY OF THE SAVAGES!!
(The following letter from Hon. R. W. Dunbar, Collector of the Port at Port Orford, contains sad and startling news, and his statements may be relied upon as correct.)
Dear Waterman--Our town was thrown into the greatest excitement this evening by the arrival of one of the volunteers of the company, who until recently were in a blockhouse at the Big Bend of Rogue River, but who, since the murder by the Indians at the mouth of Illinois Creek of two men employed in transporting supplies for the company, had removed to within four miles of the mouth of Rogue River, where grass, water and supplies could be had and until the company could receive expected reinforcements to fit them to make a demonstration upon the enemy.
On the morning of the 22nd inst., while a part of the men were absent from camp, leaving only twelve men--at dawn of day they were attacked by an overwhelming force of the enemy, and as is supposed, all but two of them killed. Mr. Foster, one of the survivors, states that as soon as their condition became known, he advised the men to separate and take to the woods; they did so, and when closely pressed, "the bullets flying thick as hail," he threw himself into a thicket, crawling close to the ground--he occupied a favorable position to witness much that transpired--saw the Indians in five different detachments, led by a fellow called Aenas, a Klickitat. He supposed they numbered three hundred--the Indians were all well armed, with rifles and Colt's revolvers. While hunting the brush very near him, one of the men was discovered and fired upon by some twenty shots as he attempted to run; this drew their attention from himself, and he escaped notice, lying still until night enabled him to get away under cover. He kept in the brush and woods as far as "Euchre Creek," midway between Port Orford and Rogue River, on the beach trail. All the ranches at Euchre were burned; no one could be seen by him as it was night--he took to the hills again, arriving here this evening. A small schooner had been dispatched from the mouth of Rogue River and arrived the same evening, confirming the news. The other volunteer spoken of as one of the two had made his way to the mouth of the river and gives a similar statement that of Mr. Foster and supposed that he was the only one left of the whole camp.
Dr. White of Rogue River was at "Euchre Creek Ranch" when the savages made a descent upon it on the 22nd inst. at 5 o'clock p.m. They killed Mr. Warner and Mr. Seamon; Mr. Smith, a sick man, made his escape to the woods, where he remained forty-eight hours without food. Dr. White also escaped in the thick brush towards Rogue River, and reports that Mr. Geisel, family and two men were killed at his ranch by the Indians, and it is supposed that every ranch near Rogue River is sacked, the people surprised and killed.
The captain of the volunteer (John Poland) had gone the evening before the attack was made on the attack with the Indian agent, Capt. Ben. Wright, across the river. An Indian had come into camp and told that Aenas was in the camp of the Mikonotunnes, and that they wanted Wright to come and take him away, as they did not want him there. Wright, knowing him to be the great leader, was anxious for his capture, and was thus led into the snare evidently laid for him. Mr. Wright has been deceived as to the friendship of the Indians in his district towards the whites. In the fight on the 22nd inst. (for some of the volunteers did give battle, though overpowered by numbers), and in the sacking of the camp after all was over, many of the pretended friendly bands were distinguished gloating on the spoils! The settlers at the mouth of the river are in danger, and hourly expecting an attack. Our town is weak--we build a fort tomorrow, preparatory to meet the enemy, whose approach is step by step.
The garrison here is illy prepared to render aid, being scarcely more than able to protect the public property--the command numbers about twenty-four men. We are certain that the Indian Agent Ben. Wright is killed, and satisfied now that all the coast bands will be drawn into the general war which is upon us; the unchecked successes of the hostile Indians has put them in possession of arms and munitions enough to arm all the unarmed Indians on this coast and make them equal man for man with the whites.
Unless the regular army come to our relief, I fear that the settlers on this coast will be cleaned out in a short time. We shall make the best defense we can with the means at our command, although nearly all the arms and munitions in this quarter seems to be in the hands of the enemy; how it is, I know not, unless it be by conquest--there is, I fear, gross blame somewhere. The settlers north as far as Coquille are all in town for protection; it is a painful sight to contemplate, to see them compelled to abandon everything to the merciless savage--drag their women and children through rains, and all the inclemencies of a disagreeable winter at so great a sacrifice, and to know that there is no relief. Whatever may have been the origin or cause of this war, here are innocent parties, good and peaceable citizens, struggling against the vicissitudes of this country, exposed to the scalping knife, of savage warfare, or compelled to abandon the results of many hard months' toil.
How long will the government withhold her protection to these defenseless people? We have not the men to meet the combined Indian forces of the south, now reinforced by the coast bands; and our position is such that at best we cannot expect to hold out for a great length of time.
We have no further news from Rogue River up to [the] 26th. Great anxiety is felt, but we care not leave our post.
In haste, yours,
R. W. DUNBAR.
P.S. I would say that the coast Indians above us north, and those at Coquille, have as yet committed no act of violence R. W. D.
Oregon Weekly Times, Portland, March 8, 1856, page 2
(From the Democratic Standard.)
HORRIBLE INDIAN MASSACRE.
Seventeen Persons Killed by Indians Near the Mouth of Rogue River,
Among Whom Were Ben. Wright and Capt. Poland.
From Judge Pratt, who came up on the Republic, we have obtained the following details of the massacre of whites near the mouth of Rogue River. Judge Pratt was furnished with these particulars by Maj. Reynolds, the officer in command of the few troops stationed at Port Orford, and who came on board the steamer while lying at that port.
The narrative will be better understood by first stating that Ben. Wright had been sent by Gen. Palmer down the coast with authority to collect the friendly Indians about the mouth of Rogue River and cause them to be removed up the coast to Coos, so as to be separated from the contamination of the hostile tribes dwelling higher up the river. At the mouth of Rogue River is a settlement of whites embracing about 30 persons. About 4 miles up the river and on the south side was a house, the residence of a white by the name of McGuire, who had been acting as an Indian agent. Opposite on the north side is an Indian village of the Tututnis.
This tribe, together with the Shasta, coast, Mikonotunnes, and a few other small tribes living in the vicinity, were regarded as friendly Indians; while the Galice Creek, Applegate and Cow Creek tribes living father from the coast were known to be hostile, and to have made endeavors to induce these coast Indians to join them against the whites. One Eneas, a half breed, is the leader of the hostile bands in that section. The mouth of Rogue River is about 30 miles below Port Orford.
On the 22nd Feb., Ben. Wright and Capt. Poland, with about 40 troops, had been collecting these Indians at [the] Tututni village preparatory to proceeding with them up the coast. On that night about 25 of the troops left their arms with their comrades and went down to the mouth of the river to attend a ball. Wright and Poland went over to McGuire's house to remain during the night. The remainder of the force, 15 in number, lodged in camp on the north side of the river near the Indian village.
About 2 o'clock in the morning of the 23rd, the soldiers in camp were awakened by the noise of a scuffle over the river at McGuire's house. They heard no shots fired, and the darkness prevented their being able to see the nature of the trouble. They remained awake, proceeded to prepare their breakfast, and were ready to partake of it just at the first dawn of day. A Mr. Foster, who escaped and reached Port Orford on the 24th, says that as he was about drinking his coffee a volley of musketry was fired into camp, one ball knocking his cup from his hand. He immediately rose up, and by the light of the camp fire observed that the Indians were in their midst in great numbers. He immediately took to the brush, and succeeded in secreting himself under a log about 300 yards distant from camp. The Indians fired several shots after he left camp, and when daylight had fully appeared, they yelled and whooped and danced like demons. They came several times close upon him as he lay concealed. He recognized among them Eneas the half breed, whom he knew, and understanding their language, he heard them say that they had killed and had found the bodies of 13 of those in camp. The other one besides himself who had escaped he knew not nor where he could be found. He was enabled to move his position undiscovered, so as to see that McGuire's house had been burned, and this led him to suppose that the scuffle which was heard there in the night was the act of butchering the inmates by the Indians, and that they had done this without firing a gun to avoid alarming the soldiers in camp. Ben. Wright, Capt. Poland and three others were the occupants of the house that night.
Foster remained in his hiding place till the [night] of the 23rd, when supposing that the Indians had proceeded directly to the settlement at the mouth of the river, he left his retreat and made all haste for Port Orford, where he arrived on the 24th.
The other person who escaped the massacre also lay concealed until the night of the 23rd, and then proceeded immediately to the mouth of the river and gave the alarm. The citizens sent a small schooner, which was lying in port, immediately to Port Orford for assistance. This craft arrived there before Foster and apprised Maj. Reynolds of the massacre. The Major, having only about 30 men at his command, was unable to render the aid asked for. But Capt. Tichenor and a few of the settlers at Port Orford returned immediately with the schooner. The fate of the settlement was not known on the 27th when the Republic left Port Orford.
The crippled condition of the Republic, in consequence of a fire on board, and the excited state of her passengers, rendered it impossible for her captain to aid Maj. Reynolds, and hence the Major sent up a requisition to Ft. Vancouver for a company of troops.
The Indians engaged in this massacre are said by Foster to have been the Galice Creek, Applegate, Cow Creek hostile bands combined with the coast Indians who have been hitherto friendly.
When the steamer left Port Orford, Maj. Reynolds was fortifying that post.
The Oregon Argus, Oregon City, March 8, 1856, page 2
The P.M. steamship Republic, Isham, comd'g., left San Francisco Feb. 23rd; at 5½ p.m., on the night of the 24th, experienced a heavy gale from N.N.W., which lasted 36 hours; on the 27th, off Port Orford, the ship was discovered to be on fire over the boiler, but through the exertions of the officers, assisted by the passengers and crew, it was soon extinguished, and the ship's course altered for Port Orford, where we arrived in safety; upon examination the ship was found to be but slightly damaged; at midnight left Port Orford, shaping out course for Columbia River, the bar of which we crossed on the morning of the 29th, and arrived at Astoria at 10½ a.m.,; landed mail, freight and passengers, but owing to the ebb tide, we were detained about four hours; touched at St. Helens, and arrived at Fort Vancouver at noon on March 1st; left again on the 4th inst., at 11 a.m., with Company G, 4th Infantry, composed of 80 men, under the command of Capt. C. C. Augur and Lieut. Macfeely; arrived at Astoria at 1:20 p.m., on 5th inst., but owing to the state of the bar, we were detained three days; left at 11 a.m. on the 8th, and crossed the bar at 2 p.m.; arrived at Port Orford at 6½ p.m. on the 9th inst., landed the troops and left at 11½ p.m. for Crescent City, where we arrived on the morning of the 10th, at 10½; left at 2½ p.m. and arrived at Trinidad at 8 p.m.; left at 11½ p.m. and arrived off the Heads at 4 p.m. on the 12th.
"Two Weeks Later from Oregon," Daily Alta California, San Francisco, March 13, 1856, page 2
An Indian Agent Killed.We learn, says the Philadelphia North American of Saturday, by a private letter from Port Orford, Oregon, that Capt. Ben Wright, sub-Indian agent of that district, was murdered by the Indians on the morning of the 23rd of [February]. He was, we believe, a Philadelphian. He died in the performance of his official duties. As the hostilities of the Indians had assumed an alarming character in Southern Oregon, and some of the warlike Indians are not far from the Port Orford settlements, it was feared that the peaceable Indians might be persuaded or intimidated into joining the savage army. Capt. Wright has always had great confidence in his power to control the Indians, and under the influence of this he went amongst the tribe of his charge, apprehending no danger, notwithstanding that a war party was known to be in the vicinity to which he went. On the 23rd of February, having been solicited by some of his own Indians to go among them on business, he went in company with Capt. John Poland, of the volunteers. They slept in a house on the south bank of the Rogue River. At about three o'clock on the morning of the 23rd of [February], the house was surrounded, and Capt. Wright and his companions were murdered by the hostile savages to which his own professedly peaceful Indians had betrayed them. Some of the Indians say that Capt. Wright was called to the door, grappled and killed by a blow from a hatchet, and then cut to pieces. There was a small force of volunteers a short distance off, but the work was done so noiselessly that they heard nothing of it, but were themselves immediately after surprised and cut to pieces.
After this bloody massacre, the treacherous friendly Indians joined the war party in open revolt. They at once made a descent upon the settlements, laying waste all before them between Port Orford and the California line, and murdering all the whites encountered on their way. At the mouth of Rogue River, everything was destroyed except the picket fort, in which the few survivors had assembled. There they were hemmed in by the savages, the communications all cut off, and at the date of the letter alluded to, March 5th, the whole country was in a state of war.
The writer, R. W. Dunbar, Collector of the Customs at Port Orford, says: "We are all forted up and hourly expecting an attack. We are too weak to go out to fight the Indians, so many of our people having been cut off. The unchecked success of the Indians has drawn to their support all the bands on this coast. Our only hope is in the United States government sending us aid." Port Orford, from whence the letter was sent, is a town on the southern coast of Oregon Territory, located at the head of Tichenor Bay, which is a small sheet of water setting in from the ocean, above Rogue River. The Indians north of Port Orford bear the designation of Quatomahs. Those immediately south of it are called Euchres, while on Rogue River there is another tribe called Tututnis. All these tribes are now hostile.
Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, Buffalo, New York, April 30, 1856, page 2
THE ROGUE RIVER WAR.--Through the politeness of Dr. Holton, who arrived on the Republic from the fort at the mouth of Rogue River, via Port Orford, we learn that in attempting to open a communication between Port Orford and that place, by sea, a whaleboat was capsized, containing eight men from Port Orford, six of whom were drowned; the other two succeeded in getting into the fort.
At the time the doctor left (6th inst.), they had succeeded in redeeming Mrs. Geisel, daughter and infant about six weeks old--her husband and three sons having been killed in the attack of the 22d February.
On the 2d inst., five white men and one negro left the fort for the purpose of securing some potatoes that were not destroyed by the fire at the mouth of the river, [and] although well armed, [they] were cut off and every man killed, since which time no persons have ventured to leave the fort, forty men being kept on guard day and night. The whole number of persons in the fort being 26 men (five wounded), 7 women and 12 children.
The Democrat, Defiance, Ohio, May 3, 1856, page 2
Port Orford, March 8, 1856.Friend Bush--By the steamship Republic, which touched here on her trip up some eight days since, we gave a short account of the awful massacre that has taken place at or near the mouth of Rogue River, and now we have only a few moments to add other and nonetheless melancholy events.
Shortly after the outbreak, a whaleboat set out from this place for the scene of horror, for the purpose of keeping a communication with the fort at the mouth of Rogue River, and on going ashore at or near the fort, the boat capsized and six men were drowned.
We have not time to give a detailed account of the massacre, as the steamer is now in the harbor, but will give a list of those killed, viz.--Benjamin Wright, our much esteemed and efficient Indian agent, John Poland, captain of the volunteers, Pat. McCullough, Pat. McCluskey, John Idles, Henry Lawrence, Barney Castle, Guy C. Holcomb, Joseph Wilkinson, Joseph Wagoner, E. W. Howe, J. H. Braun, John Geisel and four children, his wife and daughter taken prisoners, but since exchanged. Martin Reed, Geo. Reed, a negro, name unknown, Lorenzo Warner, Samuel Hendrick. Those were killed in the first attack. Since that the following: Henry Bullen, L. W. Oliver, Dan Richardson, Adolf Schmoldt and Geo. Trickey, to which we add the names of those drowned, viz.--H. C. Gerow, merchant, and formerly of N.Y., John O'Brien, miner, Sylvester Long, farmer, William Thompson, boatman, Richard Gay, do., and Felix McCue.
Efficient and energetic measures have been adopted by Maj. Reynolds, commander of the military fort, for a sure defense, and the citizens have also erected a fort and formed themselves into a company for the purpose of cooperating with the regulars.
JAS. C. FRANKLIN.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, March 18, 1856, page 2
Lewellyn W. Oliver, son of Benjamin Oliver of Bath, was killed by the Indians at the mouth of Rogue River in Oregon, on the 25th of February.
Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Bangor, Maine, May 23, 1856, page 2
. . . we have numerous interesting letters from our correspondents, among which we select those of Mr. Franklin and Mr. R. H. Smith, U.S. Postmaster at Port Orford, as containing the most news. The former may be found in another column, and from the latter we make some extracts below. Mr. Clarke Smith, brother of the writer, reported killed by the Indians in the Rogue River massacre, has fortunately escaped, having taken to the woods and made his way after incredible suffering to Port Orford.
Port Orford, O.T., March 8, 1856.Since my last letter to your paper our vicinity has been the scene of the most distressing occurrences, the particulars of which I forwarded you by the last steamer. The Indians here are now under the surveillance of Major Reynolds, at the barracks, where they are kept inside the government reserve and fed. They are given to understand that in the event of their being found outside the reserve they are to be shot down. They are carefully but humanely kept, and no communication allowed with any strange Indians from among the hostile tribes of the interior.
We live in our block fort at night. The quarters are also fenced in and the log houses turned into forts. The late melancholy occurrence, by which we lost six citizens by drowning, adds to the general depression of feeling.
The Port Orford Indians have given up their arms. The "Sixes" tribe have also come in and given up all they said they had. But their statements are not credited. There are above us by the lagoon about one hundred men and two hundred squaws and children. Major Reynolds is feeding them. More troops are expected when the steamer arrives. We expect the town will be burned up every night. An invoice of two or three dozen rifles would find an immediate and profitable sale.
[no signature]"Highly Interesting from Port Orford," Daily Alta California, San Francisco, March 20, 1856, page 2
LETTER FROM PORT ORFORD.
THE INDIAN DIFFICULTIES THERE--PARTICULARS OF THE ROGUE RIVER AFFAIR--
SIX PERSONS DROWNED--SUBSEQUENT MOVEMENTS OF THE INDIANS, ETC.
(The following letter containing fuller particulars of the affair at Rogue River is sent to us from Port Orford with the request of many of the citizens that we should publish it. A portion of the news it contains has been previously published.)
Port Orford, O.T., March 8, 1856.Necessity calls upon me at this moment to record one of the most atrocious outbreaks of the Indians that has ever occurred in this country and the cause of which yet remains a mystery. Difficulties of a serious and disastrous character have for several months past been enacted in other parts of Oregon, but none have reach our vicinity until recently. On receiving the proclamation of the Governor for volunteers, an effort was at once made to raise a company, and after being partially completed it was detailed for service. A tour was taken through the Indian country by the volunteers, who were accompanied by a detachment of U.S. troops from this place. After being absent a few days the troops returned to their quarters, and the volunteers repaired to the mouth of Rogue River, or near that point, for the purpose of filling up their company. This occurred about the first of February, and from this date up to the 22nd ult. no hostile feeling was perceptible among any of the band of Indians residing in the vicinity of the volunteers' encampment, and the agent had the most explicit confidence in their integrity and sincerity of motives. But treachery, the ruling character of the Indian, could not be secreted any longer, and on the evening of Feb. 22 gave vent to its ruling passion. On that evening, the Mikonotunne chief sent word to Capt. Benj. Wright, Indian agent, to "come and take away Eneas, for he was a bad Indian." This Eneas is a Canadian Indian and has been in Oregon for several years, and talks several different languages.
He had professed great friendship for the whites, but sometime during the month of January he deserted the cause of the whites and joined the belligerent band of Indians. Capt. Wright returned the message with a request that Eneas should come and see him, or meet him at a certain place, to which Capt. Wright, accompanied by John Poland, captain of the volunteers, repaired. These communications were exchanged on the afternoon of February 22nd, and at the same time the Indians, some twelve miles distant, attacked the ranch of Mr. J. C. Smith. The Indians came to the house about 5 o'clock p.m., in their usual friendly and peaceable manner, and requested Mr. Warner to go a short distance from the house and look at an otter skin, but he had not gone more than thirty yards from the house before he was shot dead, without any chance of defense. Mr. Smith's attention was about the same moment attracted by the approach of some fifteen or twenty Indians from a different direction from which Mr. Warner had gone. Mr. Smith at once discovered the belligerent appearance of the Indians, and immediately closed the door and prepared for their reception. Mr. Smith and Dr. White (the only occupants) defended the house for thirty or forty minutes, during which time the Indians kept up a continual shooting at the house, and then it was set on fire, and Messrs. Smith and White were compelled to avail themselves of the chances of escape, which they effected amidst continual bad shooting of the Indians. Mr. Smith directed his course for this place, at which he arrived on Monday following, after suffering intense fatigue and hunger, and Dr. White sought the fort at the mouth of Rogue River, at which he arrived on the following day. From thence the Indians commenced their inhuman and atrocious work and directed their course towards Rogue River, killing all the inhabitants except two females, who they retained in capture, and burning every building that fell in their course.
Early in the evening of the same day, Capt. Benjamin Wright, our worthy and efficient Indian agent, and John Poland, of the volunteers, who had according to an agreement above spoken of assembled at a specific place on the south side of Rogue River for the purpose of an interview with Eneas, the Canadian Indian, but sad to tell, they were both massacred as it is supposed by the same Eneas and his band of demons. On the following morning, at daylight, the volunteers were attacked by the combined forces of all the Indians occupying the vicinity of the mouth of Rogue River, and in fact extending some thirty or forty miles up the river. The volunteers were taken wholly by surprise, from the fact that they were among their friends, as they supposed, and several of the company were absent on business for the company, soliciting enlistments &c. Of the volunteers who were present, only four made their escape. Mr. Charles Foster was pursued some distance and finally secreted himself in a small thicket, in which he remained during the day and watched the infernal rejoicings of the Indians over the inhuman and atrocious victory which they had achieved. He witnessed their dancing and division of the property which they had taken. The volunteers were divided in what is called two messes; one was camped in the open air, and the other in a house. Mr. Foster was in the mess which was camped in the open air, and the first camp attacked, and from where he was secreted he could witness the entire attack on the house.
The men who were encamped in the house fired several shots, and from the fact that it is well known that those who occupied the house were good marksmen, several Indians were killed. Mr. Foster judged the Indians to number over three hundred who made the attack, and who continued firing at the house about one hour, and their firing ceased in the house, the goods were then removed, and the house set on fire. Mr. Foster remained secreted until after dark, and then set out for this place, at which he arrived on the following evening. Mr. J. K. Vincent, Mr. Elijah Meservey, and Mr. E. A. Wilson, slightly wounded, also escaped by secreting themselves for six consecutive days, and the Indians were during the whole time all around them, and not unfrequently coming within speaking distance, but finally they made their escape to the fort. Following is a list of those killed, including volunteers and citizens:
Benjamin Wright, Indian agent; John Poland, capt. volunteers; Pat McCullough, Pat McCluskey, John Jolles, Henry Lawrence, Barney Castle, Guy C. Holcomb, Jos. Wilkinson, Jos. Wagoner, E. W. Howe, J. H. Braun, John Geisel and four children; his wife and daughter, thirteen years of age, taken captives; Martin Reid, George Read, Lorenzo Warren, Samuel Hedrick, Nelson Seamans, and a negro, name not known. There are a few more who are missing, and it is supposed that they are also killed, but hoping that they may yet make their appearance we forbear giving their names, but will as soon as their destiny is known.
In addition to this we are compelled to record another misfortune, which is in ratio nonetheless melancholy. On receiving the sad intelligence from Rogue River, expresses were sent out in every direction to solicit all the whites to convene at this place immediately for the purpose of building a fort, and making other and all necessary arrangements for a sure defense, and all the friendly Indians had been gathered in and their arms secured. A whaleboat set out for Rogue River to learn the result of the outbreak, and keep up a communication between the two places. The party consisted of eight persons, via: H. C. Guerin, merchant, and formerly of New York; John O'Brien, miner; Sylvester Long, farmer; Richard Gray, boatman; Felix McCue, miner; William Thompson, boatman; Henry S. DeFremery, farmer, and Capt. Davis, miner, and on going ashore at the landing opposite the Rogue River fort the boat capsized, and all were drowned except Henry S. DeFremery and Capt. Davis. This said intelligence was brought up on Friday evening by Robert Forsyth and Mr. McGuire, who literally ran the gantlet and arrived safe at our place. By this express we learn that the Indians, numbering from three to five hundred, were encamped within one mile from the fort at Rogue River, but the whites are so situated that scouting parties are daily cutting off and adding to the list of Indians killed.
All the Indians, or nearly all, between this and the Coquille River have been convened by order of the commanding officer at this place and their arms secured, yet we are here on the lookout day and night, anticipating an attack.
Yours &c.Daily Alta California, San Francisco, March 20, 1856, page 2
Clinton. [probably William Clinton Tichenor]
LATEST FROM THE SOUTH.
Umpqua Correspondence of the Statesman.
Deer Creek, March 12, 1856.
Friend Bush:--An express arrived here through the mountains last night from Port Orford with the news that one hundred men or more were surrounded in their entrenchment at the mouth of Rogue River by the Indians, without any chance of retreat. That the Indians already there number between three and four hundred. A whaleboat left Port Orford for the purpose of communicating with the whites, but was swamped in trying to land, and as fast as the crew came ashore they were killed by the Indians, only two making their escape.
Capt. Tichenor tried to approach them with his schooner Nelly but could not on account of the winds. It was said when my informant left that these men had but about four days' provision.
This man says there are about eighty men at Port Orford including 30 U.S. troops. They have erected a fort by setting up planks about six inches apart and filling the space with earth. The people at Port Orford think they can stand a siege, but expect the town will be burnt.
A rumor tonight says that the Coquille and Coos Bay bands have left for the mountains with the intention of joining the hostile Indians. If this be true all the property along the coast as far as the mouth of the Umpqua will be destroyed, as it is said the people at Coos Bay have no arms, what few they had being sent down the coast.
The messenger who brought this news here went south this morning to see Gen. Lamerick, hoping he would be able to send some men to the relief of the people on the coast.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, March 18, 1856, page 2
Indian War at Port Orford--Letter from Mr. Dunbar.
Port Orford, March 4th, 1856.
Editor Times--Since writing to you under date 24th Feb'y., other developments have taken place. Up to the 28th Feb'y., no news had been received from Rogue River; we were satisfied that all communication was cut off between us and them. With a glass we could see that everything that they could reach was being burned and destroyed by the savages, without our being able to render assistance. Anxious to know the fate of the remnant of our friends there, on the morning of the 28th ultimo a company of eight resolute spirits, good men, took a boat and supplies for twenty-four hours, and with the north wind sailed down. In trying to land opposite the fort, the boat became unmanageable in the surf, capsized, drowning six out of the eight men, with the loss of all their arms and some ammunition for the fort. Capt. Davis of Coquille and Mr. DeFremery swam ashore; H. C. Gerow, boatman, William Thompson, sailor, Felix McCue, John O'Bryan, miner, and Mr. Long, farmer, were drowned. The Indians tried, after the bodies came ashore, to rob and mutilate them, in which three Indians were shot, and compelled to abandon the spoils. The whole country is filled with the war party--having got the assistance of all the coast bands between this and the California line.
The night after the sad accident, two men run the gantlet, came through the lines of the enemy, and reached this town in safety on the following morning, and report in addition to the above, that on the 24th the Indians in force appeared before the fort and made an attack, but were repulsed by the whites with the loss of several Indians, and no damage done to the fort. They, however, pillaged and burned all the buildings, on both sides of the river, and retain possession of the field.
Mrs. Geisel, and little daughter eleven or twelve years old, spoken of in the former communication, were taken prisoners and hurried off into the mountains, instead of being killed. This news was brought to the fort by a volunteer escaping into the brush, by whom they passed on their road, after a day had elapsed. One or two wounded volunteers made their way to the fort and confirm the death of Capt. John Poland of the volunteers and Capt. Ben Wright, sub-Indian agent. Mr. Wright had to the last full confidence in his Indians, who evidently laid the plan for his murder.
Capt. Poland and Capt. Wright were on their way to Port Orford with papers relative to the organization of the company, and Capt. Wright had been amongst his Indians, and believed them all right; but their plan was to put an end to him--they sent back after him and urged him to come back, when he was five or six miles on his way.
From an Indian, the manner of his death is learned to have been by going to the house where Capt. Poland and himself slept, called him to the door on pretense, when a dozen at once grappled him by the arms, hair and body, and as it was necessary to kill him without noise, he was struck in the head with a hatchet, then cut in pieces with knives.
Capt. Poland had a desperate struggle with the Indians--wounded some of them badly. He is said to have nearly cut off the hand of the 2nd chief of the Tututnis; this is, however, Indian intelligence, but is believed.
Major Reynolds, in command of the fort, or garrison of the U.S. troops, has rendered every aid in his power to the citizens and for the protection of this place. Every part of the garrison is being fortified to protect the stores, etc.
Soon as the death of the Indian agent was known here, Maj. R. at once took charge of the Indian Department of this district and set about bringing in all the bands not already implicated in the outrages below, desirous to keep them from taking part, and to gain time for help to arrive. He had the Coquille, Sixes Rivers, Elk River and Port Orford bands put on the military reservation, and is now furnishing them provisions.
The great object is, if possible, to prevent communication between these and the war party at Rogue River; how long it can be done I know not--I fear not long enough to get reinforcements of troops.
Pickets are kept at night. On two occasions they fired upon Indian spies in the night, from below.
I close at half-past ten to attend a call to picket guard.
R. W. DUNBAR.
Oregon Weekly Times, Portland, March 22, 1856, page 1
FORT MINER, GOLD BEACH,At a meeting of the citizens and volunteers held this day the undersigned were appointed a committee this day to draft and present to our fellow citizen, Mr. Charles Brown, a testimonial of the high appreciation of this community for his brave and gallant conduct during the negotiations for the release of Miss Mary Geisel from the Indians. We therefore offer the following preamble and resolutions:
March 7th, 1856.
Whereas, the Indians did, on the night of the 22nd ultimo, enter the house of John Geisel, and did in the most shocking manner murder the said Geisel and three children; and, Whereas, the Indians did then take and carry away the widow of said Geisel and infant three weeks old, and a daughter of thirteen years; and, Whereas negotiations were yesterday opened with the Indians for the release of Mrs. Geisel and her children by means of an exchange of prisoners, which resulted in the release of Mrs. Geisel and her infant child, who were safely returned into this fort, and, Whereas, the Indians with their usual treachery did then refuse to give up Miss Mary Geisel as they had agreed to do; and, Whereas, the said Charles Brown did at this point voluntarily leave the fort and go unarmed at the imminent risk of his life, into a large band of hostile and armed Indians, which gallant act was repeated until he succeeded by skillful negotiations in effecting the release of the said maiden, whom he led in triumph into the fort,
Therefore Resolved, by this community, that we hereby tender our warmest thanks to our fellow citizen, Mr. Charles Brown, for his brave, humane and gallant conduct on the above occasion.
Resolved, That in thus voluntarily risking his life without solicitation, and without the hope of pecuniary reward for the noble purpose of releasing said maiden from captivity, Mr. Charles Brown has won for himself a high place among those whose names shall live when marble monuments shall have crumbled into dust.
Resolved, That while the deeds of the conqueror are handed down to posterity, we claim a place in history for the name of Charles Brown, who, actuated by no mercenary motive, performed an act of true bravery and self-sacrificing intrepidity which stands side by side with the gallant acts of our country.
Resolved, That as soon as possible this community will present to the said Charles Brown some more solid testimonial of our regard for his distinguished services above recorded.
Resolved, That all the newspapers on the coast are requested to give this an insertion.
Wm. J. Berry,Crescent City Herald, May 21, 1856, page 2
O. W. Weaver,
The following letter was written by Mrs. William Tichenor to her son Jacob, who was in school in the Willamette Valley. The letter was sent to us by Mary Boice Capps.
Port Orford March 17, 1856My Dear Son:
I should have written to you immediately after your father returned from Salem, but owing to the great Indian excitement here and your father leaving home again in less than a week was why I did not write. . . . Now, my boy, I must tell you something about the Indian troubles here. About three weeks ago the Rogue River Indians commenced their hostilities. They have joined the hostile tribes and have destroyed everything at Rogue River, killed a good many of your acquaintance. About one hundred men, nine women and several children saved themselves by getting into a fort which they had prepared which is the only thing standing; it is in Prattsville on the bluff. We have had no news from there for more than a week, when two men ventured out at the risk of their lives by night and arrived here in safety. They say if they keep their position at the fort they are safe. The Indians have made several attempts but did not succeed, but several were killed each time. Troops were sent for immediately, who arrived here by steamer. There were over a hundred started from here yesterday for that place. Ben Wright was killed at [the] Tututnis' village where he had collected the Indians from the mouth of the river and all about to prevent communication with the hostile Indians as he thought. Most of the volunteers were killed who had been staying at Big Bend all winter but were with Ben Wright at the time. I cannot tell the number. Mr. Warner was killed at his house and house burnt and Mr. Seaman was killed; he was there at the time hunting. Mr. Geisel and two sons were killed. His wife and daughters were taken prisoners, but they have succeeded in getting them. They are now at the fort. Mr. Lundry came with the schooner immediately to save himself and it and brought the news. Your father returned with him the same night with a message from the Major to Rogue River if he could not go in the river to go to Crescent City. He could not go in the river on account of the many Indians at the mouth, so he went to Crescent City and sent his schooner to San Francisco with a message. There was a hundred and fifty troops landed at Crescent City by the last steamer. Your father is their guide through the mountains. Don't be uneasy about us, for we have a good fort here up on the hill where the old fort was, and we all go there every night. The Port Orford Indians appear friendly. They have collected them all together the other side of the garrison from Coquille down and taken their arms. Your little sister often speaks of you and would like to see you and then she takes a peep at your daguerreotype. Your father intended writing to you but was called away in such a hurry. I must stop and get ready to go to the fort, for it is almost night. . . .
Get your uncle to please read this to you if he can make it out. Do not be uneasy about us. We will try and come soon, for I cannot stay in Oregon.
Your affectionate [mother] Nellie E. TichenorP.S. About two weeks ago eight men started to go to Rogue River in a whaleboat to learn the conclusion of things there. As there is no safety in traveling by land and in attempting to go ashore the boat capsized in the surf and six of them were drowned. One of the drowned was Mr. Gerow, Sylvester Long, old Dick the boatman and little Billy. The others I did not learn their names.
Curry County Echoes, Curry Historical Society, January 1989, page 7
Port Orford Correspondence of the Statesman.
Port Orford, March 23, 1856.
Editor Statesman--The steamer is now due from San Francisco, and we avail ourselves of this opportunity of communicating such intelligence as we have received from the seat of war, and such other matter which may be of interest to the readers of the Statesman.
On the 13th inst., a detachment of U.S. soldiers, 150 strong, under command of Col. Buchanan, together with some forty volunteers under command of Capt. George Abbott, left Crescent City for the scene of hostilities on Rogue River, and on the same day another detachment of U.S. soldiers, numbering something over one hundred, under command of Capt. Augur, left this place to meet Col. Buchanan, at a designated point on Rogue's River, for the purpose of commencing active operations against the Indians.
In addition to this force we have heard from reliable sources that orders have been forwarded to Capt. Smith, commanding at Fort Lane, to march immediately with two companies of U.S. soldiers to cooperate with those from this place and Crescent City.
On the evening of the 21st last, Mr. Chas. Foster arrived here with advices from Capt. Augur. As yet no regular engagements had taken place, but on their arrival at the designated point on Rogue's River (which was at the mouth of Illinois River), they discovered some ten or twelve Indians, and strange to say on being fired upon they stood their ground and promptly returned the fire of the troops. Five Indians were killed, and no loss occurred to the whites, either in killed or wounded.
On account of the roughness of the country south of Rogue River, Col. Buchanan was unable to meet Capt. Augur at the point designated, consequently he was compelled to march direct to the mouth of Rogue's River, and Capt. Augur on his arrival at the point agreed upon, finding that the Colonel had not arrived, and after waiting some little time, took up the line of march for the mouth of Rogue's River, some twenty or twenty-five miles distant from the Illinois River. After leaving camp, and yet in full view a company of some five or six Indians came into camp and throwed powder into the fire, discharged their rifles, and made several other demonstrations of victory, and not being satisfied with this proceeding followed the command one day, and on the following morning after the soldiers had left camp repeated the same proceedings as at the previous camp. This occurred on the 21st inst., since which we have received no intelligence.
As soon as the intelligence of the massacre on the 22nd ult., at Rogue's River, reached the commanding officer at this post, an effort was at once made to collect all the friendly Indians north of this place, reaching as far as the Coquille River, which effort proved unusually successful, and they remained quiet and peaceable until last evening, when the Coquille Indians left for parts unknown.
On inquiry of those remaining in camp, we are informed that a white man came to their lodge during the early part of the night, and informed them that the whites were coming to kill them early in the morning, and a regular stampede was as a matter of course the result. What action may be taken by the commanding officer I am unable to say, but we suppose that something will be done to ascertain whether any white men have been the means of the Indians leaving, and if so, proceedings will be commenced against any person so vile and treacherous as to commit so base a wrong.
Yours, &c., J. C. F.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, April 29, 1856, page 1
Affairs at Port Orford.
Port Orford, April 6, 1856.
Editor Times--Since I last wrote you, Col. Buchanan with 200 men arrived at the mouth of Rogue River from Crescent city, overland--and the families who had been penned up for a month are at last relieved from their perilous situation, and are now with us. Mrs. Geisel, infant and daughter, thirteen years old, are among the number who, after suffering a captivity of two weeks, were redeemed by those at the fort, in an exchange of prisoners before the troops arrived. On the arrival of Col. Buchanan, the Indians made but a slight stand, and fled up the river.
The troops made the trip without interruption, although a small party of volunteers, numbering thirty-five men under Capt. Abbott, who came from Crescent City, two days in advance of the troops to relieve the women and children at Rogue River, were met at Pistol Creek, below Rogue River, by a band of warriors. At first they were repulsed, but had time, by keeping up a brisk fire, to fall back a short distance and throw up a temporary breastwork of "driftwood" on the beach, behind which they were in a measure protected, and for thirty-six hours received and returned the fire of over two hundred well-armed Indians, fifteen of whom were killed, with the loss of one white man and several slightly wounded. But for the advance of Col. Buchanan, this brave little band must have "gone under." As it was, about thirty-five horses and mules, with supplies, were driven off.
About four days before the arrival of Col. Buchanan at the mouth, Major Reynolds, with 125 men from the garrison here, had marched for Rogue River. At the mouth of Illinois Creek, where a junction was ordered with Col. Buchanan's command, a fight took place between the troops under Maj. R. and the coast Indians who had fled up the river upon the approach of Col. B.'s command. In this fight, eight diggers were killed and many wounded, one white man badly and one slightly wounded. Our soldiers charged the Indians in the brush with great success. After putting them to flight, the ranches and a large quantity of provisions were burned. The junction intended having failed, Maj. Reynolds moved his command to the encampment at the mouth of Rogue River.
On the 5th inst., Capt. Smith from Fort Lane, with a command of 100 men, came to this fort after a hard march through the mountains. He reports having had several fights with Indians on his way down, having to cut his way through encampments of the enemy in many places, many of whom he killed, and destroyed large quantities of provisions, blankets, arms and all sorts of property which they had stolen from settlers and miners at the mouth of Rogue River.
It is now rendered [paragraph illegible--paper torn away]
If the army alone were promptly and properly supplied, some hope of a speedy end being put to this war might reasonably be expected, and the citizens allowed to return to their legitimate pursuits. But as circumstances are, for the want of proper supplies with which to follow up the advantage already gained, time will be given for the concentration of the scattered bands, who may by the time supplies shall arrive be fully prepared to meet our forces--and it is reasonable to suppose from the recent successes of the savages on Cow Creek and other places, of which they will have time to be informed, may give our troops additional trouble, and perhaps be the cause of a disastrous defeat--for although this small scope of country, about which I have been talking so much, is in no extreme more than eighty miles from us, most of the scenes were enacted less than forty miles away.
Be these fears realized or not, everything is brought to a dead stand. Neither the regular nor the volunteer force can begin the campaign with any hope of success, until supplies shall be sent here for them, for not less than twenty to twenty-five days' rations must be transported by packs into the mountain gorges and defiles--as with the limited number of troops it will be out of the question to keep the line of communication open between them and the fort here, from which they must get supplies.
R. W. DUNBAR.
Oregon Weekly Times, Portland, April 19, 1856, page 1
A letter from Port Orford, O.T., dated April 13, says--
The operations against the belligerent tribes have been very limited, owing to bad weather and the scarcity of provisions.
A slight skirmish occurred on the 29th ult. at Rogue River, between a small detachment of U.S. troops and some sixty or seventy Indians. The Indians were routed and sustained quite a loss in both killed and wounded, considering the number engaged. The troops sustained a loss of only two wounded. On the morning of April 1st, a band of Indians residing at the mouth of the Coquille River were attacked by a company of Port Orford volunteers; the band was a small one and all were killed except two. As to the justice or gallantry of this movement we have nothing to say, only the Indians did not fire a single gun.
This band of Indians had been solicited to come in and give up their arms, and on condition of doing so they should be fed and provided. But becoming dissatisfied with their situation they returned to their lodges, peaceable and quiet, only a few days previous to their being attacked.
From all appearances, this Indian war is destined to be of long duration, and we cannot look for the end in one month, and in all probability a year. Business outside of the town is nearly all suspended, and there are now in this place a larger number who have been driven from their business, and in many cases they have lost all that they possessed, and escape only with half clothing enough to satisfy the demands of nature. We are truly in a melancholy situation, without business, without money and almost destitute of provisions, and if the war continues, which we have no doubt it will for some time to come, our darkest days are yet in the future.
Pittsburgh Gazette, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, May 19, 1856, page 2
HeadquartersTo Brigd. Genl. Lamerick
Mouth of Rogue River
June [omission] 1856
Annexed you will please find a brief statement of the operations of Company "H" 2 Rgt. O.M.V. (which I have the honor to command) from 23rd Feby. last.
You are probably aware that on the morning of the 23rd Feby. last commenced the fearful outbreak of the savages whereby numbers of volunteers as well as citizens became the victims of Indian ferocity.
The movement was simultaneous from Chetco to Euchre River on the coast, a distance of over fifty miles and extending far back into the mountains. The fearful battle cry was heard on that eventful morning and all the horrors of a savage war was upon us. Capt. John Poland, who was stationed with a small number of volunteers (at that time comprising Company "K") at the Tututni Indian village, and eight privates were killed & three wounded. Some twenty citizens were also killed, making a total of killed twenty-nine & three wounded. Mrs. Mary Geisel and her daughter, a girl thirteen years of age, were taken prisoners and carried off into Indian captivity but were subsequently rescued by me. A fort partially constructed by the citizens of Gold Beach previous to the 23rd was on that day hastily finished and men, women & children sought safety within its walls. We numbered all told about one hundred & twenty-six volunteers, citizens &c. &c. I immediately organized the balance of the volunteers, stationed a strong guard that night and endeavored to restore to quietness the excited state in which all or nearly so participated. 24th. No attack having been made upon us the night of the 23rd, order and quietness seemed to supply the place of excitement. An election of officers was ordered to supply vacancies in Company "K," also an invitation extended to all to become members of the company. By reference to the muster roll you will obtain a detailed account of officers elected & men enlisted. The Indians came down in large numbers, all well armed, and commenced the work of destruction by which sixty houses were burned, large quantities of merchandise and other property destroyed, hundreds of cattle & horses driven off or shot, and in fact with twenty-four hours no traces of civilization were left upon this once-prosperous beach except our little fort containing all that was left to us of friends and property. 25th. The Indians having removed their plunder the 24th evidently were preparing to attack us, as large bodies of them were seen collecting on the hills also were approaching us upon the west or beach side. We were not disappointed, and at about two o'clock the attack commenced. By my order the best riflemen were placed in the bastions, and their shots told so fearfully upon the enemy that at the expiration of about one hour they withdrew from the fort with the loss of two killed and several wounded. Believing that an attack would be made that night, I ordered the guards to be doubled. It is proper here to remark that all male citizens performed cheerfully the duties assigned them. We were very deficient in quantity and quality of arms, our best rifles having been captured at the Tututni massacre. The savages subsequently twice attacked our fort but were as often repulsed. From 26th Feby. to the 2nd March we were continually upon the lookout and frequently sent out small parties for the purpose of attacking them if advisable and gaining such information as would be of advantage. 2nd March Lt. Cantwell with fifteen men on the morning of that day was surprised and attacked by a large force near the mouth of Rogue River and after an obstinate conflict succeeded in cutting his way through them with the loss of six killed & two wounded. The loss of the enemy (as since ascertained) was seven. From the 2nd to the 24th we were almost daily harassed and fired upon by them. My force being too small to act upon the offensive, my only alternative was to gain such advantages as their overconfidence in their strength would give by sending small parties out as spies & scouts. On the morning of the 20th twenty men under my command surprised a party of them at the mouth of the river, killing three of their number. It would be well at this place to introduce Lt. Geo. H. Abbott, who in command of thirty-four volunteers and independent volunteers attacked a large party of the enemy at Chetco River the 16th and dispersed them, after which the Lt. renewed his march for the mouth of Rogue River. At Pistol River some twenty miles this side of the Chetco he was attacked by the united forces of the Indians and maintained his position for thirty-six hours (as since ascertained), killing and wounding forty-five of them with the loss of one man killed & one wounded on his part. His official report made to me, a copy of which was sent to the Adjutant General and to the chief in command of 2 Rgt. O.M.V., contains a detailed account of the affair and does honor to him and the brave men of his command. From the 20th March to 10th of April no decisive engagements took place, yet it was evident that our close observation of their movements with occasional advantages tended in a great measure to dishearten the enemy. 9th. A small party were sent out under Lt. Abbott to clear the trail between our fort and Port Orford. 11th. One man [was] fired upon and narrowly escaped with his life, returned to camp the 12th. 13th. Lt. Abbott again started in pursuit of the enemy, who were reported in numbers about ten miles south of Port Orford. Euchre, Mussel & Elk creeks, together with their headwaters, were thoroughly examined; no trace of them could be found, and [we] returned to camp the 17th.
21st. A scouting party of twelve men under my command including Lt. Abbott started up Rogue River. We encamped with the regulars under Capt. Smith the evening of that day. 22nd. Early on the morning of the twenty-second we quietly withdrew from their camp and took up a position about one & [a] half miles below at a point called Lobster Creek. At early sunrise two canoes containing twelve bucks & three squaws were seen approaching our place of concealment. When within a short distance of us we opened a most murderous fire upon them, killing eleven bucks & one squaw, only one buck & two squaws escaping to tell the tale. Deeming it imprudent to remain in the immediate vicinity of the enemy, who evidently were in large force at the Kaseteney village, a short distance upon [sic--"above"?] us I returned to camp the 23rd without accident or loss. From the 23rd to the 9th of May the usual routine of duties were performed, no attack either by me or the enemy having been made. 10th. Lt. Abbott & escort returned from Port Orford with provisions. 12th. Left camp en route for Pistol River, a distance of twelve miles, took twenty [omission] provisions. 18th. Returned to mouth of Rogue River. 19th. Crossed Rogue River in the morning, passed Fort Miners same day and encamped five miles above towards Port Orford. 20th. Remained in camp in consequence of a severe storm. 21st. Resumed our march, encamped the evening of that day at the half-breed's, about ten miles from Port Orford. 22nd. Reached Port Orford and delivered our provisions to the Indian agent, Genl. Palmer. We remained at Port Orford until the 28th, when in obedience to your orders we marched for "Fort Lamerick." Encamped that evening two miles south of Port Orford. 29th. Continued march, encamped at Oak Grove. 30th. Remained in camp in consequence of our surgeon being quite unwell. 31st. Continued march en route for Fort Lamerick. 1st June. Made a forced march to the Big Bend, a distance of twenty-six miles, and encamped in the vicinity of regular forces under command of Lt. Col. Buchanan. That evening several shots were fired which was supposed to be the signal of attack by the Indians' forces under John. Col. Buchanan invited me to take a position inside the picket guard on the east side of his camp, which I accepted. No attack however was made by John & his bands. 2nd. Remained in camp. 3rd. Started express to Major Latshaw Fort Lamerick. Had gone about two miles when they discovered several bodies of Indians supposed to be John's band and returned to camp. I immediately with my command marched to attack them but returned to camp without having seen them, they evidently having fled. I again started my express who succeeded in reaching Fort Lamerick that evening. 4th. Express returned to camp. 5th. I ordered my command to march for the mouth of the Illinois River. We were accompanied by one company of regulars under the command of Maj. Reynolds. My command being several miles in advance of the regulars, [we] were constantly upon the alert and lookout with a view of surprising the enemy at their principal village near the mouth of the Illinois River. We succeeded in surprising a small party in canoes, killing three bucks & two squaws, capturing several canoes, six guns, [the] last by the capsizing of them as we afterwards ascertained. We encamped that evening at the junction of the Illinois with Rogue River. 6th. Marched to attack the main body of the enemy some seven miles below us upon Rogue River, who were reported two hundred strong, regulars under Major Reynolds remaining in camp. One company of regulars, under Capt. Augur, marched to attack them upon the opposite side of the river. The plan of attack was to be simultaneous, my command attacking them upon the south side of Rogue River while the regulars under Capt. Augur were to attack them upon the north side. The signal of attack being given, my command charged upon them with such impetuosity that the enemy fled in all directions, and within a few minutes [we] had killed eight bucks and taken twelve to fifteen females & children prisoners the gallant men of my command disdaining to trample upon their ever-cherished "motto," "Death to our enemies but spare the helpless and innocent." So completely routed were the enemy that in their attempts to escape about twenty found a watery grave by the capsizing of their canoes in the rapids. Capt. Augur's command killed six, making a total of killed & drowned the 5th & 6th at about forty. This victory told so fearfully upon the enemy that several formidable tribes were willing to accept an unconditional peace. Within a few days large numbers of their warriors came in and delivered up their arms to Capt. Augur in command of the regular forces, and within a few days hundreds of men, women & children eagerly accepted propositions they so disdainfully rejected but a few days previous. The regulars being the direct representation of our government, including the Indian agents for negotiating and concluding treaties, I have ever adopted it as a policy to deliver to them all prisoners, not allowing myself in any way to interfere with their peace propositions.
In my next communication [I] will continue my report. [I] shall be happy to hear from you and such instructions as you deem advisable shall be pleased to receive and remain
Very respectfullyCayuse, Yakima and Rogue River Wars Papers, University of Oregon Special Collections Bx47, Box 1, Folder 53.
Relf Bledsoe Capt.
Commanding Company "K" 2 Rgt. O.M.V.
Mr. Mallory informs us that the scalp of Col. Ben. Wright was lately taken from an Indian on the Reservation.
The Oregon Argus, Oregon City, November 8, 1856, page 2
One evening I went to the hotel and heard that the Indians above the mouth of Rogue River and Gold Beach--Joshuas, Tututnis, Mikonotunnes, Euchres and all the different tribes of Indians--had broke out, killed Captain Ben Wright (Sup. Indian Agent), cut his head off, and killed 32 ranch men and burnt up all their houses, drove off the stock and horses, and that Prattsville at Gold Beach was surrounded by the Indians and their supplies cut off; my ranch (The Pacific Ranch) and the Three Sisters, and all our neighbors and settlers were burnt up, and the Canadian half-breed Eneas and young Capt. Jack of the Tetootenays led the Indians.
Gold Beach, 1930sGold Beach, 1930s
A family named Geisel, husband, wife and four children, lived at Elizabethtown (8 miles below my ranch) or ten from Prattsville. The Indians made the husband crawl into a burning log and killed and burned his three other boys; then took the wife and oldest daughter (about 15 or 16) prisoners with them. One company of soldiers had been sent to the rescue of the people of Prattsville and one company from Crescent City and some more from Rogue River Valley under command of [Capt. A. J.] Smith (afterwards in the great Rebellion). He commanded both regulars and volunteers, and a regular Indian war had broken out in all Southern Oregon and Northern California.
So I thought I had saved my scalp by not being on my old Pacific Ranch. I sometimes think that Eneas would have warned me, for he did the half-breed boys, my neighbors, but being as I was white and they half-Indians might have made a difference, and I am glad I left and not took the chance to try them, or the Indians. For when they massacred the 32 whites, it was done simultaneously, three or four Indians to every house in the night, and not one escaped. My little Indian boy often told me that they would sometime kill all the whites and I told him they would have to do it while we were asleep, and it was just the way they done it. But it was the white men's own faults, for we were too careless and unguarded with them and they got the advantage and took the opportunity.
In about a week after I got the news, my brother came to me at Happy Camp. He was at Prattsville when the Indians killed the 32 white settlers. Ben Wright [was] but two miles up Rogue River from Prattsville. They came and knocked at his door in the night, called him out to speak to him, when young Tututni Jack (young chief) caught Ben Wright by the hair, others held him, and one cut his head off with an ax.
Charley told me how it all commenced. Two white men (I knew one, named John Clevenger) were prospecting some distance up Rogue River, some  miles above. The Indians killed both of them and the whites heard of it and raised a company of volunteers and fought the Indians. Then [Capt. A. J.] Smith went down the river with a company of regulars (and one company raised at Crescent City) to go up the beach to the mouth of Rogue River and to camp there until other volunteers from above would form a junction with them.
A small company had been raised at Prattsville, and the Crescent City Company and the Prattsville company were camped three or four miles up Rogue River from Prattsville. One night there was a big ball or dance got up at Prattsville and all the volunteers except a guard of four men went to the ball. Some few of the Crescent City volunteers were up the river scouting. Nearly one o'clock at night a squaw, well known at Prattsville, told another squaw, the wife of Jim Hunt, a white man, that Indians were going to kill all the whites in the country while they were asleep that night. The squaw was around the miners a great deal and made Prattsville her home most of the time, and she liked the whites, and the Indians did not think she would dare to betray them. So after dark she had left the Tetootnay village (about 4 miles above) to let the whites know, and told James Hunt's wife first. Jim Hunt took the squaw and brought her to a store kept by Gus and John Upton and James Johnson, and they called in other merchants and citizens and they questioned the squaw. She kept telling the same story, but the men just laughed at the idea that the Indians would dare to do so, and they actually proposed to whip the squaw for telling such a lying story. But at last [they] let her go, and thought no more about it.
In the morning very early, about daybreak, one of the volunteer miners named Shaffer had been at the dance and started to go up to the camp, three or four miles up. When he got close to the camp, he saw everything so still around camp and no stir yet and no guards in sight. When he got to the tent, he saw all the four guards dead and scalped and lots of things gone. He just started and ran back to Prattsville with the news. He had to be careful so the Indians did not happen to see him. Everyone was astonished and confounded and raised men and arms and went right up and found Ben Wright had been killed. Then parties were sent out to settlers' houses, and it was found all were murdered and the houses burned and stock drove off, and the Indians had all united and were coming on to Prattsville. So the people all got together and forted up the town and kept guard out day and night.
Doyce B. Nunis, ed., The Golden Frontier: The Recollections of Herman Francis Reinhart 1851-1869, written 1887, published 1962, page 94
Rogue River Outbreak.
Reminiscent Narrative of the Indian War in Southern Oregon--
Chief John's Overthrow by the Whites.
In one of the charming villas at Belvedere lives George W. Miller, who, something more than forty years ago, was first lieutenant of the volunteer company raised at Port Orford, Or., to aid the regulars in the defense of homes and the suppression of the Indians in what is called the Rogue River War.
An allusion to the massacre in a recent publication has awakened in his mind personal reminiscences of that struggle, in which a little band of whites successfully resisted the desire for their extermination which lurked in the breast of the old Chief John of the Tututnis.
Port Orford was at that time a collection of perhaps a dozen houses, with the fort, in which Major Reynolds of the United States army was stationed with possibly thirty-five regular soldiers.
"The cause of the outbreak was, undoubtedly, a system of indignities practiced upon the Indians by a number of lawless whites," said Mr. Miller.
"One of the outrages bitterly resented by them was that of robbing their burial grounds of the boards with which it was customary for them to protect each grave. These boards were hewn with much labor from great cedar trees and with tools that a carpenter would have scorned. They were from a foot to two feet in width and of various lengths.
Whenever lumber for certain purposes was needed, there were those in the community who did not hesitate to appropriate the nicely finished boards, without regard for the sacred significance applied to them by their lawful owners. Protestations upon the part of the Indians or settlers possessing a sense of justice were met with either insult or indifference.
"At that time there was no dearth of flotsam which society ever casts upon the frontier. A certain number of young men, whose ages ranged from 25 to 30, were banded together and gave full play to any lawless inclination without regard for consequences. They affected the long-haired, buckskin-suited style of the dime-novel hero. Some of them deferred to the Indian law of purchasing their squaw wives; others defied the custom, and, intimidating friends and relatives into relinquishing the squaws on whom their fancy lighted, bore them away after the fashion of barbaric conquerors.
"Before the feeling generated by these and other indignities had arisen the Indians were peaceful and friendly. On finding that their primitive shell coin could not purchase the white man's supplies they willingly gave labor in exchange. This work was done principally by the squaws, who dug gold or helped in unloading vessels when they ventured into the dangerous, breaker-beset harbors.
"The Indians were four years preparing for the war which they fancied would rid them of the whites and avenge their wrongs.
"Sea otters were at that time plentiful, and numbers were caught by the Indians. The usual price paid by the traders for a skin was three rifles, and in this way arms and ammunition were purchased. These were carefully cached for the contemplated outbreak.
"The greater part of the guns traded to the Indians were what was termed the United States yager gun. These were short-barreled affairs holding an ounce ball, which was discharged with a rotary motion. The cash price paid for this gun was $12.
"When rumors of impending trouble were noised about, the traders, the majority of whom were what is termed squaw men, remarked with complacency that under any circumstances they had no cause to fear the Indians, as the presence of their squaws was a protection. It was significant that these traders were the first to fall victims to the wrath of the savages, and were all mercilessly tortured. The most prominent among them was Ben Wright, known as an Indian fighter, who for such services drew a pension from the government. The successive slaughter of other well-known characters followed and soon brought us to a realization that a bloody war was full upon us. Plans for resistance were soon put into operation. A number of men in whaleboats started to aid the settlers living at the mouth of Rogue River. The effort was futile, as the Indians attacked them when about to land, killing all save one of their number, who escaped to the fort. [They were drowned in the surf, not attacked.] Among them was a merchant named Jerome, who had taken advantage of the expedition to collect a debt from a debtor at that point.
"The instigator and leader of the Indians, Chief John, was acknowledged by the white officers to be a warrior indeed, a crafty technician, who tried to the uttermost the military skill of his white adversaries. Besides employing the usual signal fires resorted to by all savages, he invented a unique and effective human telephone system. Knowing that the women of the tribe would be safer than men from the guns of the soldiers, he stationed young squaws at intervals of 300 yards from one point to another between which he desired communications to pass. Thus the message was called from mouth to mouth with rapidity and authenticity.
"When Colonel Buchanan came to the relief of the disheartened soldiers he requested John's presence at camp, sending men as hostages, and endeavoring to treat with his red foe, but the warrior listened to his propositions disdainfully. He desired no treaty, and, looking the officer steadily in the eye, declared that he preferred to fight him man to man--a statement which the angry general could not resent, as he felt inclined to do, owing to the dangerous position of the three soldiers held by the Indians until the return of their chief.
"The Indians endeavored to keep the waters of Rogue River between themselves and the white men. Upon the further shore were their provisions, their stores of ammunition and their families. For a long time they successfully resisted the efforts of their enemies to cross.
"The story has often been told of the construction of canvas boats in which the soldiers reached the opposite shore under protection of howitzers planted upon the bank above them, and of the destruction by them of immense stores of dried fish, which at that season of the year formed the chief article of Indian food. The berries upon which they might have subsisted had not yet ripened, and their attempts to catch further supplies of fish were frustrated. Starvation or surrender stared them in the face, and a dreadful scourge of sickness, caused by lack of food, set in among them.
"When General Buchanan sent word for Chief John's surrender, the Indian replied that through necessity he yielded to the great tyee's command. When the order was given for them to leave the vicinity for the more fruitful northern reservation a chief called Tagonecia sorrowfully protested.
"'I was born here,' said he, 'and here I hope to lay my bones when I die. I have always befriended the whites and in my heart is no enmity toward them.' His request was unheeded and with the Indians well known to be hostile he was commanded to take his departure.
"Tagonecia was an Indian of fine physique, being fully 6 feet tall,. of a benevolent and intelligent countenance. He was noted among his people for his ingenuity, and among other useful things could make an excellent saddle similar to those used by the Mexicans.
"When the Indians, some 1500 in number, took their departure they passed through the lines of the soldiers stationed at Port Orford. They formed a procession, which was the personification of wretchedness, poverty and despair. Old men and women were led in their blindness by younger members of their tribe or family. Women weak from sickness bore heavy burdens or children upon their backs. Wolf-eyed warriors stepped with an air of haughty nonchalance and a look of baffled hatred upon their dark faces. Troops of children crept along, ragged, dirty, pitiful, and leading his people was Chief John, mounted upon a sorry mule, a look of indifference upon his face, his eyes, which seemed to observe nothing, fixed straight before him.
"Port Orford was never attacked by the Indians, though scouts were often sent by them to take account of and report any opportunity for slaughter. These scouts traveled at night, running swiftly upon the beach and in the water's edge to hide their footprints. In spite of this precaution, however, they were usually seen by the watchful sentinels and a shot sent them precipitately into the sea.
"A number of peculiar incidents of that bloody period remain in the memory after the general dark background has worn dim. At the beginning of the outbreak, I remember, a blockhouse, two stories in height and forty-five feet square, was built on the outskirts of the little town; in this blockhouse families found shelter at night.
"There had been no indication of the presence of Indians for some time, and one of the families, growing tired of the constant moving to and fro, decided to remain at home upon a certain night. Before morning, however, an alarm of Indians was sounded, and the husband and wife, each catching up a child, started for the blockhouse.
"They had gone but a short distance when it was discovered that some much-needed belonging had been forgotten. The husband decided to return, bidding his wife hasten on to the blockhouse, which there were two ways of reaching from their dwelling--one a shortcut through the thick bushes, and the other by a wagon road.
"The wife chose the former, while in returning the husband took the road. Not overtaking her, the safety of his wife and child weighed upon his mind, and the necessity of silence was entirely forgotten.
"He loudly called her name and she, though realizing the danger of such an outburst, felt compelled to answer.
"Her exact location and the progress she was making next caused him anxiety, and his call was repeated. As expostulation was impossible the wife again relieved his anxiety by loudly calling her answer. So through the strip of woodland they went proclaiming themselves an easy prey to the savages, who fortunately for them were biding their time or committing depredations elsewhere."
Although surrounded by dangers the younger portion of the community felt the need of amusement, and a dance was accordingly given.
They congregated in the only hall the place afforded, stationed pickets to guard against surprises, and, stacking their arms conveniently at hand, proceeded to enjoy themselves to the accompaniment of a brace of fiddles.
As young children formed an important part of the community, and nurses were not a feature of the frontier, each mother participating in the gaiety--and young mothers were in the majority among the women--placed her child upon a convenient bed in the dressing room and unencumbered joined the dance.
One of the babies so disposed of is today a prosperous business man of our city.
The sympathetic members of that party received a shock in the unexpected appearance of an elderly woman who but a few weeks before had a son murdered [sic] in the whaleboat expedition. Yet in spite of his awful fate she joined in dancing and made merry with the rest. Her utter heartlessness was a circumstance never forgotten by those who were present.
Mr. Miller exclaims bitterly against the blindness of the government to the interests of its law-abiding citizens in depriving them of fertile and accessible lands and bestowing them upon the unwilling Indians, who preferred the thick woods and barren shores from which they were driven and which were best suited for their savage needs.
"God made that wild country for the Injuns," declared Mr. Miller in conclusion, "and the government made a fool of itself in driving them away and giving them land that the white man was bound to need someday."--Clara Price in S.F. Call.
Oregon Daily Statesman, Salem, April 14, 1897, page 7 The story ran in the San Francisco Call of April 11, 1897, page 19
The Mouth of the Rogue River in the 1930s.
CAPTURED BY REDSKINS.
Christina Geisel, now Christina Edson, emigrated in the early years from the Atlantic States to the shore of the Pacific, and with her husband, John Geisel, and their little family settled on the Pacific Ocean, near the mouth of the Rogue River, in Oregon. Their house was upon the then traveled trail leading from the coast of California into Oregon. They were comfortably fixed when they settled there at that time. John Geisel mined the fine gold dust on the ocean beach and this, together with his stock upon the prairies, and what was received by the passing travelers for lodgings, constituted their meals and livelihood. A friendly Indian was employed about the premises in occasional services. The village of the Indian tribe of the "Tututnis" was eight miles distant up the Rogue River. Very little apprehension existed among the settlers as to any hostile intent on the part of the Indians. Ben Wright, the Indian agent in the vicinity, and known in the Pacific States as a daring Indian fighter, gave positive assurance that no danger existed.
On the night of Feb. 22, 1856, the settlers for some miles around attended a ball at Rogue River, in observance of Washington's birthday. The Indians, expecting to find the country comparatively defenseless, owing to the assemblage at the hall, concluded upon a general massacre of the whites who remained at home. Owing to the illness of one of the children, none of the Geisel family attended the ball.
About midnight Mr. Geisel was awakened by a rap upon the door, and by hearing their Indian servant saying that he desired to obtain something to eat. Upon this the door was opened, and immediately several stalwart Indians rushed in and commenced their attack with long drawn knives and tomahawks upon Mr. Geisel. Mrs. Geisel left her three-week-old infant in bed, and though quite feeble rushed to her husband's rescue. In the conflict she received a severe wound. Her husband was soon overcome and fell dead in her presence. She was securely bound, and with her infant and a seven-year-old daughter was forced without. There she witnessed her three boys taken from their little beds in an adjoining room, and while piteously begging for life they were, one by one, slaughtered in her presence.
After rifling the house of all such articles as they desired, they applied the torch to it and compelled their captives to witness its destruction with the burning of the bodies of the slain. Mrs. Geisel, barefooted and clad in her thin gown, and with her two children, was then marched to the camp of the Tututnis, and while en route witnessed the burning of many houses and the massacre of her neighbors. Great indignities were inflicted upon the captives by the Indians in the village of the hostiles. They were kept prisoners under strict watch for two weeks, when they were exchanged or ransomed by the white people who were forted at the mouth of the Rogue River.
During her captivity Mrs. Geisel took careful notes and sketches of what she observed. She discovered that several allied tribes were constructing very strong fortifications from which they proposed making raids upon all the surrounding country in California and Oregon, and thus complete the destruction already begun. Mrs. Geisel discovered a concealed approach through the mountain gorges into this fortification and village by which, if it could be assailed in that direction by sufficient force, defense would be without avail. She also learned from conversations among the Indians in their own language, which she interpreted, that great preparations were in progress for a raid on the people of the town of Port Orford, thirty miles distant, where they expressed great confidence of exterminating the men and children and making captives of the women. The time was fixed for their departure and surprise. This information she disclosed to the settlers in the fort immediately upon her ransom, and they sent forward to Port Orford a swift-traveling messenger to inform the people of their approaching danger. Port Orford was at once placed in a condition of defense, and when the Indians appeared before it they were repulsed and returned to their camp on Rogue River.
Soldiers and volunteers were soon on the ground, and availing themselves of the information communicated by Mrs. Geisel, they made a sudden assault upon the Indian fortifications by way of the approaches discovered by the captive woman, and after a closely contested battle they completely routed and killed many of the Indian warriors. The defeat so dispirited them that they never rallied again, and were afterward the most peaceable Indians on the Pacific coast. The Rogue River war, which extended over a large portion of southern Oregon, was substantially ended at this place. It is a part of the written history of the Pacific coast states and territories.
Daily Herald, Delphos, Ohio, November 2, 1899, page 3
The following article, entitled "A Scout to Rogue River in 1856," was written by Jeremiah Huntley of Gold Beach.
"The first news of the Indian outbreak at the mouth of Rogue River was brought to Port Orford by Charley Foster, whose company of home guards, of volunteers, were attacked and routed by the Indians at their camp on the north bank of Rogue River at a point since known as Bagnell's Ferry, on the early morning of February 23, 1856. Several men of the company were killed and wounded at the first volley; the others fled to the timber and brush nearby and hid the best they could. A few were discovered by the Indians during the day and killed. Foster succeeded in eluding the Indians and when it became dark started for Port Orford, thirty miles distant, where he arrived the second day, almost famished, and gave the alarm. Foster did not know the fate of the people at the mouth of the river but reported that he believed that all the whites in that vicinity had been killed. From his hiding place in the jungle he saw many strange Indians passing during the day, from which he judged that the hostiles from up the river had come down and, joining with the coast Indians, had killed all the whites they could find. At that period Port Orford was a thriving little town of about two hundred people, mostly miners and packers, though a few families had recently been added to the town. The Indians in that vicinity were not very numerous or warlike, and the few who lived thereabouts gave the people no concern.
"Several days passed after Foster's arrival, but nothing more was heard from Rogue River, so one Gerow, a storekeeper, in company with four or five others, whose names have been forgotten, manned a whaleboat, loaded it with provisions, guns and ammunition, and pulled out for Rogue River to assist the people there, should they find any alive. It was known that a small fort or earthwork had been partially built a short time previous about one mile north of the mouth of the river by some miners who feared an outbreak, and thither the men in a boat directed their course. The boat was spied and hailed by the people in the fort, and in an attempt to make a landing all the occupants of the boat, save one, were drowned in the surf.
"The little fort was besieged by hundreds of Indians, who kept at a safe distance, however, as the occupants had good rifles and knew how to use them. With plenty of provisions, a good log fort carefully constructed with loopholes and protected by a wide ditch on the outside, the miners had no fears of their ability to repel any assaults of the Indians. But they needed every man present, so had not tried to send for assistance. Several days passed, and as no word was received from Rogue River or the occupants of the whaleboat, W. S. Winsor and George Wasson, two miners, but experienced Indian fighters, volunteered to go to Rogue River and locate the white people, if any were alive, or learn their fate. Winsor and Wasson secured the best horses they could find, and at dark on the evening of March 3, 1856, were ready to undertake the perilous journey. Armed with good rifles and revolvers, and with four days' rations tied on their saddles, the two men shook hands with the friends who had assembled at the only store in town to see them off, mounted, and soon disappeared in the darkness down the beach. Both had traveled that trail many times, and as the night was not very dark they made good time. No one resided on or near the trail, so it was pretty certain that the only human beings they were apt to encounter would be Indians. As the scouts hurried along that lonely trail they were frequently startled by wild animals scampering off through the forest, through brush and over logs, making considerable noise. The clink of the shoes on their horses against the many stones in the trail made more noise than was pleasant to hear, as such noise might be heard by some lurking warrior picketing the trail. But such noises could not be avoided, and our scouts went forward as fast as it was prudent in the darkness.
"The scouts approached Mussel Creek, fifteen miles south of Port Orford, about eleven o'clock, where they knew that several Indian families lived close to the trail. In fact all Indian huts were located on the side of the trails in early days. Several fires were burning in the village and Indians were seen moving about, all of which indicated to the scouts that something unusual was doing, as it was well known that all Indians usually retired early in the evening. On nearing the village the scouts paused to determine what was best to do to pass the camp in safety. A rocky beach to the right and an impenetrable jungle to their left, above the village, made it almost impossible to pass the village without riding through it. Wasson suggested that Winsor hold his horse while he advanced on foot to reconnoiter, but the latter objected to such a move, saying: 'George, there is no use of monkeying round that camp, for we must either ride through or go back; and as we have no time to lose, let's get a move on. What do you say?' The only reply Wasson made was, 'Go ahead.' Wasson was one of those fearless, cautious mountaineers of the early days who never hesitated to do things when brought face to face with danger. In fact, he was chosen by Winsor as one, upon whom he could rely on the perilous journey. The scouts dismounted, tightened their saddles, mounted again and, with drawn revolvers, moved forward, forded the creek and. putting spurs to their horses, quickly passed through the village, uttering war whoops, and reached the timber on the hillside before the astonished Indians knew what had happened. As the scouts passed through the village they did not see many Indians, and those whom they saw had no arms and wore no war paint.
"When clear of the village the scouts increased their pace, satisfied that they had left no hostile Indians behind them--a fact which might prove of inestimable value should they suddenly encounter a war party and be compelled to retreat. The next Indian village was located at Euchre Creek, about five miles below the village they had just passed, and as the tide was nearly high they must cross that creek at the village. The scouts feared that some of the hostiles from Rogue River might be encountered, but they were determined to get through if possible. The village was built on sand, which enabled the scouts to approach it without making the usual noise on horseback. When within a short distance of the huts the scouts paused to 'size up the outfit,' as Wasson put it. There was little life or bustle in the village save the beating of a drum in a hut near the trail, and as few Indians were astir, the scouts breathed easier. But the scouts did not hesitate long and, putting spurs to their horses and bending low in their saddles, quickly passed through the village, forded the creek just beyond and disappeared in the darkness down the beach. If they were seen by the Indians the latter made no outcry or gave them a parting shot. Afterward the scouts learned that there was a band of about one hundred warriors from the camp at Rogue River asleep as they passed through the village. Below the village the trail led along the beach and, though the tide was in and the beach heavy, the scouts made good time till they left the beach. They were now approaching the danger zone and must advance with greater caution than they had thought necessary during their ride. They turned into the timber and brush to the left and climbed the mountain, searching for a place where they could get a view of the country beyond, to pass the coming day in security. Fortunately they found some grassy glades near the open ground and here they unsaddled, picketed their horses and prepared to pass the day. The long, weary ride had sharpened the appetite of the scouts and they did ample justice to their lunch, after which they enjoyed their first smoke since leaving Port Orford. A faint glimmer in the east proclaimed the approach of another day and, to the delight of the weary men, not a cloud was visible, though it was yet the rainy season. When it was light enough to see, the scouts sought an open space at the edge of the timber and fortunately were enabled to get a good view of the country to the south. And when it grew lighter the keen eyes of scouts saw the outlines of the little fort on the bluff near the ocean, about five miles distant. The old flag was floating over the fort, which was proof positive to the scouts that the miners were there in force, defiant and full of fight. The mountain on which the scouts were standing sloped gently to the south to a small valley, through which coursed a creek which emptied into Rogue River, about five miles beyond. Beyond the valley, about three miles distant, a bald, fiat mountain rose about six hundred feet. To the right the mountain sloped off to the westward, forming a high bluff' on the shore of the ocean. The trail to Rogue River was plainly visible where it crossed the hill on the west.
"Soon after sunrise several straggling bands of Indians, warriors no doubt, came in view from the east, presumably the river, going towards the fort, some riding, but mostly men on foot, and disappeared over the mountain in the direction of the fort. The scouts estimated the war party, for such it evidently was, to be fully three hundred. No doubt there was a force equally as large occupying the country between the fort and the river, but that part of the field was shut out of view by intervening mountains. The distance was too great to hear the report of firearms or see the smoke of battle, if one was in progress. Several small bands of Indians, mostly squaws, passed up and down the little valley during the day, but at nightfall returned towards the river, which indicated that the main camp of the hostiles was on the river to their left. The day passed slowly to the scouts, who were anxious to get to the fort and learn the extent of the massacre of the whites. About sundown the warriors, who went over in the morning, or about the same number, returned and disappeared over the mountain, whence they came in the morning. During the day the scouts took careful note of the country beyond and picked out their route to the fort. They believed that the fort was not closely picketed by the Indians during the night and that the quickest and perhaps the safest move on their part was to ride directly to the fort, keeping a close lookout, of course, for Indians.
"As the shades of evening fell over hill and valley the scouts saddled their horses and rode down to the little valley below, then to the trail, along which they advanced with more caution till the little fort was visible on the bluff near the ocean beach. As they were apt to encounter the Indian pickets, if any were on duty on the hillside, the scouts dismounted and, leading their horses, moved forward with caution. They frequently paused and anxiously peered into the darkness to catch the least sound of an enemy, if present, but no sound except the occasional bark of a dog in the fort broke the awful stillness. After a long halt the scouts believed that no pickets were on guard on that part of the field at least, so they tied their horses in a thicket nearby, crawled to a friendly knoll about three hundred yards from the little fort and, in a low tone at first, hailed the people in the fort. Receiving no answer, they hailed again in a louder voice, which was soon after answered by someone in the fort. After hurriedly telling the people in the fort who they were, the scouts were directed to come forward slowly. The scouts were now in extreme peril, for should there be lurking pickets in that vicinity to fire upon them, the people in the fort might think it a night attack and fire a volley in the face of the scouts. The scouts, sensible of their peril, lost no time in reaching the fort, where they were met with many guns pointed at them as they crossed the plank laid across the ditch to admit them. The scouts were greeted with many handshakes and were glad that their perilous journey was at an end. Accompanied by men from the fort, they returned and led their horses into the fort.
"The scouts found about eighty people, mustering about seventy guns. They had plenty of ammunition and provisions, were full of fight and did not appear to be greatly disturbed by their surroundings. The hostile Indians appeared upon the hillside above the fort the next day but kept at a safe distance. In about a week after the scouts reached the little fort, the siege was raised by the arrival of several companies of regular soldiers from the south. The Indians then withdrew up the river and the war was practically ended.
"James Brooking and James McVay, of Smith River, California, E. H. Meservy of Agness, and W. S. Winsor of Gold Beach, Oregon, are the only occupants of that little fort known to be alive. And men of their mettle made the Oregon country."
James Gaston, ed., Centennial History of Oregon, 1911, vol. 4, pages 1026-1028.
FAMOUS CHIEF PASSES ON TO HIS FATHERS
Newport, Ore., March. 5.--"Billy" Strong, last lineal chief of the "Tututni" tribe of Indians, and one of the most noted characters on the Siletz Indian Reservation, died a few days ago.
"Billy" was the third son of Chief Shell-head of the Tututnis, with whom the government treaty was made after the war of 1855 and 1856. The whole family were turbulent men and warriors of note before the coming of the whites, but "Billy" was the only one to live long enough under reservation restraint to prove his worth.
This family consisted of three sons, Jim, Jack and Billy, and two daughters, Jennie and Mary. The first four were living at the time of the war in their village on the north side of the Rogue River and have always been credited with an active part in the murder of Ben Wright, an early white settler.
The story also has it that Jennie ate Wright's heart after killing him. She was a woman of immense strength, and many remarkable tales are told of her endurance. It is said that she once carried on her back 200 pounds of flour clear from the Kings Valley mill to the Siletz Reservation.
East Oregonian, Pendleton, March 5, 1913, page 2
INDIAN'S DEATH RECALLS TALE OF REAL ROMANCE
William Strong, of Tututni Tribe in Oregon, Who Recently Succumbed,
Picturesque Character--Poor Judge but Good Temperance Advocate.
The true Indian stories are fast becoming history and legend, but the following told by R. A. Bensell, of Newport, and published in the Newport Signal, which is edited and published by T. F. Kershaw, is as romantic as that of the Black Douglas or Richard Coeur de Lion. Mr. Bensell was an Indian agent in the early days, and 50 years' experience with the Indians of Oregon has made him acquainted with many interesting stories which will soon be forgotten if not recorded. He once served with Phil Sheridan. This story is about an Indian, who died last month on the Siletz Reservation, and his relatives.
"The death of William Strong, a Tututni chieftain, marks the end of a notorious family. Shell Head, whose Indian name was Oneatta, was chief of the Tututni tribe. His family consisted of Jim, Jack, Bill, Jennie and Mary. Shell Head, or Oneatta, and his son Jim died at the agency. Jack was killed at Newport. Bigheaded Bill, afterward named William Strong, the subject of this sketch, died on February 17 at the agency, about 70 years old.
"The first four named lived, at the breaking out of the war of '55 and '56, at the Tututni village on the north side of Rogue River. The three men and Jennie, who was a good-looking squaw, took an active part in the killing of Ben Wright, who was, with a few others, attending a dance on the opposite side of the river and below the Tututni village.
Great Strength Shown."Jennie has always been credited with eating a part or all of Ben Wright's heart. She was stout, stocky built, and many stories are told of her strength and endurance. One is that she carried 200 pounds of flour from the King's Valley mill to Siletz. Of my own personal knowledge, she carried an anvil, weighing 165 pounds, on her back, from the government depot to the Siletz, over the mountain road, in less than a day. She was a hard worker, shrewd in trade, and always had a few hundred dollars on hand. She no doubt had, in a large degree, the jealous and revengeful disposition of her kind. There is reason to believe she knew more about the murder of Wright than she chose to tell.
"In 1878 I was detailed to go with G. W. Collins, sub-Indian Agent at Yachats, south as far as Smith River, and returning, gather all the Indians that had left the reservation and bring them to the agency. As soon as Jennie and William Strong heard of this, they applied to the agent, Ben Simpson, to be allowed to accompany the expedition, giving as a reason that they had left a 'cache' there when they were moved to the agency. Simpson demurred at first because the people on the Rogue River had threatened to kill any of the family on sight, but he finally consented.
"When we reached the vicinity of the old village, every old settler calling at the camp was watched by William and Jennie, and several did not hesitate to say bad words.
"On the south side, below the house where Wright was killed, there was a willow swamp. Into this swamp William and Jennie went, hunting here and there, noting the older trees and landmarks. All day long this quest went on. But high water had, years before, covered this low place and obliterated any mark these two may have had by which to locate the cache. Now the question is, how did they have something to hurriedly hide on that side of the river, when they lived several miles up the river and on the opposite site?
"Mary was a child of that date and grew to be a rather handsome woman. Because of her good looks she was called 'Highland Mary,' and for the same reason ran a meteoric course, died young, and was buried with her sister Jennie.
Temperance Is Urged."Now we come back to the last of the family. He was a carpenter for a time and worked for the government. He was a strong temperance advocate and deplored seeing his people drinking so much liquor. When General Joel Palmer was made agent under the 'New Dispensation,' he sought to instruct the Indians in civil government, and established Indian courts. Strong, probably on account of his large head, was made Superior Judge. His ideas of justice may be understood by the decision he made in a divorce case. The judge had lost his wife a few weeks prior to that, and decided to grant the lady a divorce, provided that she marry him. This she refused to do. How fortunate for the purity of the ermine that the recall was not in vogue."
Sunday Oregonian, Portland, March 9, 1913, page 68
TOMBS RECALL INDIANS' MASSACRE OF MINERS
Ghosts of Romantic Past Sensed by Scribe in Trip to Scene of Redskin Battles;
Geisel Story Recreated in Imagination
By M. SEYMOUR THURSTON
Seven miles north on the Rogue River on the Roosevelt Highway is a sign pointing toward the area, and marked "One mile to the Geisel monument." The dirt road which leads to it is, in some places, almost like a dark tunnel cut through the forest of interweaving myrtle, spruce and fir, with an underbrush of salal, which grows in this region to a height of 10 or 12 feet, and is so dense and matted that a snake hardly could crawl through it.
A square block of the forest, about 20 feet in diameter, has been lifted out, and the space fenced with tall iron pickets. Against this fence the impenetrable forest hurls itself; looking into it from the inside is like looking into the sea from a glass-bottomed boat. In the center of the plot a red granite shaft rises from the head of a cement-covered grave, marked with the names of John Geisel and his three little sons, John, aged 5; Henry, aged 7; and Andrew, aged 9. It is dated February 22, 1856.
Another cement slab close by is marked by the name of Christina Edson, and dated . "Killed in an Indian massacre," someone said.
Out of the sunlight we had come into the dark and haunted past where lie the ashes of the Geisel family, guarded by the heavy Port Orford cedars, dark and funereal. It was so silent! only the whimper of the gulls, and the wash of the sea, which breaks on a wild and rocky coast. There is a tiny strip of black sand beach, the same black sand, laden with gold, which lured John Geisel here three-quarters of a century ago.
Oldest Witness Alive.The bit of the story was so fascinating that I must know the rest. I got it from two old Curry County histories, from Mrs. Mary Gauntlet, born of parents married at Gold Beach; from A. T. Moores, who carried the mail between Gold Beach and Port Orford 40 years ago, and finally from Mrs. Mary Blake herself, who is the oldest child of John Geisel and who witnessed the massacre. She is a dear and beautifully preserved old lady living at 1604 Alameda Drive, Portland.
As short a time ago as 1856, Curry County was inhabited by ten Indian tribes on the coast and the fierce Shas-te-Koos-tees [Shasta Costas] farther up the Rogue. Now, they say, there is left but one full-blooded Indian, and old Shasta woman living near the Chetco River.
John Geisel and his wife Christina, both born in Germany, had gradually drifted westward across the United States. In 1852, by way of covered wagon and ox team, with their four children, they arrived at Portland, where they lived in a house on Front Street.
In 1853 gold was discovered in the black sand of the beach at the mouth of the Rogue River. John Geisel took his family there in 1854.
The black sand mining excitement was at its height. The Indian villages along the coast at the mouths of the rivers had been generally replaced by white settlements. In the vicinity of the mouth of the Rogue were Elizabeth Town, five miles up the coast; Ellensburg, now Gold Beach, and Log-Town, whose populations were made up of several hundred miners, some traders, and a few vegetable-growing farmers, all men in the prime of life. There were only two or three white families. John Geisel's family, located at Elizabeth Town, was the second to locate in this section.
At Port Orford, 30 miles up the coast from Gold Beach, was stationed Brevet-Major Reynolds, U.S.A., with his company of the 3d artillery. There was almost no communication from the north or east, only the wagon road south to Crescent City, Cal., and the occasional boats along the coast. Captain Tichenor's historic boat, the Seagull, had been wrecked on the Humboldt Bar in 1852, but he was probably making regular trips at that time between Portland and San Francisco in the Quickstep.
There had been considerable trouble with the Indians, dating from "Miller's Outrage" on the Chetco in 1854. An Indian village had been demolished, and 16 people, including a squaw and her papoose, killed. The whites were usurping their lands; taking the sites of their villages at the mouths of rivers where fish, rock oysters and shellfish were so abundant, killing their herds of elk and deer.
Yet the To-to-tin tribes, including 11 bands, which extended from the northern limits of Coos Bay to the Chetco River on the south, were apparently peaceful and even friendly.
Among the To-to-tin tribes was Enos, an educated Indian, half French he was--from Canada, who was greatly in the confidence of Colonel Wright, the sub-agent in charge of Indian affairs at this place.
Enos, although he was much with the whites and fully trusted by them, lived with his squaw up the Rogue, among the Rogue River Indians. He came and went continually among the Indians and the whites.
Warning Is Disregarded.Colonel Wright had been warned that the fighting tribes up the river were trying to involve the lower river tribes--the To-to-tuna, the Mac-an-o-tin and the Yahsutes--in a war of extermination against the whites. But Colonel Wright knew his Indians, or thought he did, and laughed at the idea of an uprising. Gold Beach, which comprised at that time the whole section, was quiet and peaceful. There was the ringing sound of the ax, and the song of the saw. On the Big Flat, three miles up the Rogue River, men were growing potatoes and other vegetables. All day red-shirted miners worked on the beaches, filtering the black sand through woolen blankets to catch the gold, powder-fine.
John Geisel and his family, at Elizabeth Town, were living in domestic peace. They were mining the black sand and raising vegetables. Mrs. Geisel had a fine sow with a litter of pigs. This sow had wandered away with her little ones.
February 22, 1856, Geisel, and a Rogue River Indian employed by him, had gone out to hunt the strayed pigs. Perhaps they had gone south down the wagon road as far as Rogue River, and looked across at Ellensburg, lying peacefully in the flat at the mouth of the river. The sun was shining on this late February day. Across the river a group of Rogue River squaws were taking their daily plunge, and Geisel may have laughed to see one of them supporting her young papoose on her hands, giving him his first swimming lesson.
Their boats, shaped and fire-hollowed logs, were drawn up on the river bank. Dogs and children played. Smoke poured out of the tops of their conical-shaped huts.
There had been rumors of trouble, and John Geisel, with his little flock in mind, had felt uneasy. Now, as he looked at the peaceful Indian village, his heart quieted.
His Indian companion got into a passing canoe with others of his kind. "Me hunt hogs other time," he said. "Come back pretty soon."
Geisel, weary of the search, started home. He met a couple of young miners on their way to Ellensburg.
"Going to the dance on the Big Flat tonight, John?" one of them shouted.
"No," smiled he, "too many little folks."
"Oh, you ought to come and bring your womenfolk," protested the miner. "Women are mighty scarce in these woods."
"Mary is only 13 and my wife has a small baby," Geisel answered as he tramped on home.
That evening, February 22, 1856, most of the people of the whole Gold Beach section departed for the dance on the Big Flat, given in honor of Washington's birthday.
The Geisels covered their ashes, put out their light and went to bed.
"John," Mrs. Geisel may have said, timidly, "they say there's going to be trouble among the Indians."
"Oh, no," would have been his natural answer, spoken comfortably and sleepily. "Ben Wright can handle the Indians. By summer they will all be moved north to the reservation anyway."
No Fear Is Felt.Doubtless he told her of looking across the river at a contented little village that day, and of the squaw teaching her papoose to swim. They laughed and John Geisel, weary of his long tramp, dropped asleep, wondering if his Indian companion had found the hogs and wagering audibly that he wouldn't be seen for a week again.
Perhaps, with her babe on her arm, Mrs. Geisel lay that night fearful and anxious, in spite of her husband's reassurance. She thought of the rumors of trouble, and in contrast of the white population dancing on the Big Flat.
An early flight of migrating geese passed in the sky. She listened to their weird, yearning cries and thought fancifully that they might be lost souls seeking their creator.
Mary lay in the next room. In the trundle bed beside her own she saw by the light of the moon the tousled heads of her three little sons. The 3-week-old baby on her arm stirred, seeking the mother's breast. Her dear ones were all safe, all together. The cabin was locked and barred. She fumbled for her husband's hand, which even in his sleep pressed her reassuringly, and fell asleep at last.
At midnight came a knock on the door, and the familiar face of the Indian helper.
"Yes," answered Geisel, and sprang up to admit him. He threw open the door and was stabbed where he stood. A moment later the little cabin was full of yelling, painted Indians. The To-to-tunas were on the warpath.
The three little boys were slain in their bed. Mrs. Geisel, fighting to defend herself and her children, received a knife wound in her hand. She and Mary were rushed out of the house and bound to the trunks of trees, where, half fainting, they watched the burning of the cabin in which were the bodies of the father and sons.
Good Fortune Saves Baby.A tall buck had seized the baby, Anna, and dashed her upon the floor. Wrapped in her blankets she neither cried nor died. Thinking that she must be under the care of the Great Spirit himself, he put her into the mother's outstretched arms.
The savages rushed on, yelling, dancing, burning. They destroyed the homes of the absent dancers, all but two or three Frenchmen's cabins. Enos, who it was afterward learned was the instigator of the trouble, was half French, and the Frenchmen were safe through the following weeks of siege and bloodshed.
After the burning little town had ceased to throw its fitful flames against the trees, and the "painted devils" had grown weary of their sport, they forced the mother with her baby in her arms and Mary behind her away on a forest trail to their camp four miles up the river.
An ocean fog rolled in from the Pacific, mingling with the smoke of Elizabeth Town, and all was still.
History records that this massacre occurred February 22, 1856, when the Rogue River Indians, including the To-to-tuna, the Mac-an-o-tin, and the Yashute tribes rose up in an endeavor to exterminate the whites. There were 35 persons killed that night; the miners' cabins up and down the coast were destroyed by fire; and all the buildings in Ellensburg (now Gold Beach) were burned.
One night, 17 days after their capture, Mrs. Geisel and Mary had eaten what they could of the bountiful supper of smoked salmon, and bread made of acorn flour ground in a stone mortar, with a stone pestle, and baked in ashes. The flour had been mixed with dried huckleberries and salmonberries and seasoned with some highly flavored herb. A friendly squaw had dropped into Mary's lap a handful of that beloved delicacy, wocus, or pond lily seeds. The diet, wholesome enough, did not appeal to the tastes of white women.
They lay in their bed of skins and blankets, comfortable physically. The hut was dug back into the bank about eight feet. The poles set around against the excavation were covered with grass and dirt. The smoke from the embers of the dying fire escaped, part of it at least, through the hole left for that purpose at the top of the conical-shaped structure.
Hour after hour Mrs. Geisel lay awake. The moon passed through a white cloud in the range of her vision.
She guessed where she was, some miles up the Rogue. Could she, dared she, with her baby in her arms, and Mary behind her, climb up the notched pole, creep through the narrow opening out of the hut, steal one of the heavy log canoes on the beach and guide it down to the settlement at the mouth of the river? Or--she shivered, remembering the flaming cabins of Elizabeth Town--was there any settlement there now?
She thought with fear of Enos, the educated Indian, who was now the chief of the tribe. Him she knew--smiling, friendly and treacherous. Fortunately she did not know that on the very night her family had been massacred, Enos had smiled into Colonel Wright's face when he entered his cabin at Ellensburg in the guise of a friend, and then murdered him with an axe. But she feared and dreaded him. Even if she could dare the woods and waves, could she dare Enos?
Rumors had got about that Mrs. Geisel and her daughters were alive and held in the To-to-tuna village up the river. Charley Brown and his Indian wife Betsey, and Captain Davis had bargained and traded with Enos, and at last after nearly three weeks of imprisonment Mrs. Geisel, Mary and the infant Anna were exchanged for a captive squaw, some blankets and a handful of gold slugs and Spanish doubloons.
Mrs. Geisel was one born for tragedy. It is almost inconceivable that 40 years afterward she should have shared the identical fate of her husband and sons. She was robbed, murdered, and burned in her house at the edge of Gold Beach in . The pathetic, empty hillock on which her cottage stood is at the left-hand side of the highway just where the road from the ferry across the Rogue starts up the hill into Gold Beach. Her body lies under the second cement slab in the Geisel graveyard.
The Roosevelt Highway is almost completed. Within three years a splendid bridge will span the Rogue between Wedderburn and Gold Beach. Thousands of tourists will rush up and down the smooth pavement, sleeping in modern automobile camps, eating at cheap barbecues and never know of the ghosts that walk in Curry County; of the brave pioneers that haunt the cedar forests; ghosts of miners whom the Indians left lying where they fell; ghosts of murderers swinging from trees; perhaps of the half-breed chief Enos himself who was hanged afterward on Battle Rock at Port Orford; ghosts of Indian braves engaged in the deadly war dance on the smooth, gold-laden, black sand beaches above and below the Rogue River.
Sunday Oregonian, Portland, December 15, 1929, page 33
Port Orford Correspondence of the Statesman.
Port Orford, July 6th, 1856.Ed. Statesman--The disturbed state of affairs through which we have passed since the Indian outbreak have now subsided and settled down into a permanent peace and security of life and property. Nearly all the belligerent bands have now decided upon peace, and signified their willingness to submit to a removal to the reserve. The notorious chiefs George, Limpy and John are now here on the military reserve, ready for a departure to the military reserve that has been set apart for them, with other bands, north of the Umpqua.
There are yet remnants of several bands scattered through the mountains, which it is thought will not come in or consent to remove to the reserve, and should they remain obstinate, and refuse the demands of government, their career will, we apprehend, meet with many incidents of a dark and foreboding character that will tend to lessen their future happiness and prosperity.
A large number of the Indians now ready for their departure for the reserve will leave by the steamer now due, and the balance will immediately go by land.
Yours &c. J. C. F.Oregon Statesman, Salem, July 22, 1856, page 2
LETTER FROM PORT ORFORD.
INDIAN DEPREDATIONS--EXPOSED CONDITION OF THE WHITE SETTLERS.
Port Orford, June 10th, 1857.I take the liberty to ask you to publish in the Alta the following fair statement of the exposed and unprotected condition of the people of this place. The settlers and miners in the vicinity of Port Orford are subject to incursions and depredations from the merciless and bloodthirsty Indians, numbering about two thousand, who claim the right to leave the reservation, where they were (I cannot say compelled to go) persuaded or coaxed by Col. Buchanan, the commander-in-chief of the U.S. troops stationed in Southern Oregon to fight Indians shortly after the Indian massacre at the mouth of Rogue River on the 22nd of February 1856. From that time, up to the time of getting the Indians onto the reservation at the mouth of the Umpqua River, I forbore any comments, fearing that my personalities [sic] might preclude the publication of this communication, in which I desire to show to our government the necessity of sending troops to this point, that the Indians may be kept from coming back, by whole tribes, onto their old homesteads, killing off what whites there are here, taking all the stock in the country, and finally getting a foothold that will require a strong force to dislodge them, at an expense to Uncle Sam (including spoliation bills) that will amount to twice as much as the whole territory is worth.
The Indians were told, if they would go onto the reserve, that they would all be fed and otherwise provided for by the great Boston tyee. In this, they say, they have been deceived, that their people are sick and dissatisfied, and they want to come back to their own country; this, of course, is denied them, and now they say they will come in spite of the soldiers, who number about thirty-five men stationed at the mouth of the Umpqua River, the southern boundary of the Indian reservation, and kill all the whites and get all their stock and guns. This threat they are about to carry out unless we get assistance, as they have already broken and left the reservation in large bodies, and are now skulking about through the thinly settled neighborhoods, stealing cattle and driving families from their homes, and all they want now is to get guns, which they can and no doubt will, from small prospecting parties, who are scattered all through the mountains, then lie in wait and capture the first pack train that shows itself. This will provide them with guns and provisions enough to take this or any point they may see fit to attack, as the number already reported to have left for this place, a part of which have been seen near here, is seven times that of the whites. We have no forts, no communication with the officer in command at the mouth of the Umpqua, no place of retreat, nor any chance to get women and children away, except by the steamer Columbia, which ought to stop here once every two weeks, but this we cannot depend on, so you can easily see from our weakness in numbers and exposed situation how easy it would be for three or four hundred Indians to massacre the last one of us, as they did the miners and settlers at the mouth of Rogue River, twenty-eight miles below here, on the 22nd of February 1856.
My object in writing this communication is to get our situation fairly set forth through the public prints, so that those in authority may not have it to say that we never asked [for] assistance, and that our situation was never understood by them. It has been charged upon the whites as having been the aggressors, and the cause of the present war (though General Wool said in his dispatches there is no war) in Oregon, that the war was got up for private speculation. This, I assure you, is untrue, and has gone far to prejudice the rights of the people of Oregon Territory. Very respectfully, D. S. LOUNT.
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, June 13, 1857, page 1
Last revised May 12, 2017