The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

News from the South

Dispatches to the Portland Oregonian on the progress of the Rogue River Indian War, 1855-56.

From the Oregon Statesman Extra.
Indian Outbreak in Southern Oregon--
Dwellings Burned and Families Murdered.

CORVALLIS, Sunday, Oct. 14th.
    At noon today, Mr. S. B. Hadley arrived at this place, express messenger, bearing a petition to Gov. Curry for 500 volunteers to repel the hostilities of the Shasta and Rogue River Indians, who are represented to be in a state of war towards the whites. The petition is signed by about 150 of the citizens of Umpqua Valley. Among the names we recognize a number of prominent settlers there. The petition represents that some 20 or 30 families have been murdered, and dwellings burned, and that an attack upon the Umpqua settlements is feared. The houses burned and families murdered, thus far, resided between Grave Creek and Rogue River. Mr. Hadley recollected the following names among the number:
    Evans (at the ferry), Wagoner, Vannoy's, widow Niday (she escaped) and Harris.
    It was supposed that Miss Pellet, the temperance lecturess, was at Wagoner's, and murdered. [Sarah Pellet survived, and lived until 1898.] All communication with Jacksonville was cut off, and we hear nothing from the citizens there. It is conjectured, however, that the town is fortified. The mail carrier was shot and driven back. The families between Grave Creek and the Canyon have been brought into Umpqua for safety. There is no communication beyond the Canyon now.
    Mr. Hadley says that Judge Deady, who had been holding court in Jackson County, with Dr. Drew, deputy marshal, confirm the intelligence, and say that from the mountains they could see the burning dwellings south of them.
    An express of Maj. Raines', we are informed, passed up on the other side of the river, with a requisition of U.S. soldiers, arms and ammunition from Fort lane. He will not be able to get through, probably.
*    *    *
    Just as we were putting our Extra to press we received the following letters by the southern mail. They are from gentlemen well known in the country as wholly reliable:
LAUREL, Douglas Co., Oct. 11, '55.
    ED. STATESMAN--I hasten to inform you that there is trouble with the Indians on Rogue River. I have reliable information from Hon. M. P. Deady, Dr. Drew, my son Thomas, and others. Judge Deady left Wagoner's, on Louse Creek, after breakfast, and the house was on fire some three hours after, and all the family killed, besides a lady stopping over night, traveling to California, lecturing on temperance, and some others whose names I do not remember. The people expect much trouble. The mail carrier got in sight of the house, saw the smoking ruins, when he was fired upon by the Indians, and had to return back to Jacksonville. You shall have more news as soon as I can get it correct.
DEER CREEK, Oct. 11, 1855.
    FRIEND BUSH:--There is quite an excitement here about the Rogue River Indians, who have broken out, and are killing and murdering men, women and children. The mail carrier from here south was shot at twice just beyond Wagoner's, and reports the latter house, as well as Mr. Harris', on flames, and the Indians shouting and yelling around them like a parcel of demons.
    It is supposed Miss Pellet was at Wagoner's, as Judge Deady reports leaving her there the morning the house was burned. Wagoner and his family have not been seen, and it is but a natural conclusion to suppose all have perished. There is no communication between Jackson and Evans' Creek, and it is thought every house between those points is burned. Dr. Drew stopped at Cow Creek to assist in guarding Mr. Turner's house. The Indians are reported 300 strong, well armed, and riding American horses. If anything more transpires I will inform you.
    Yours truly,                       T. H. DEARBORN.
DEER CREEK, Oct. 11, 12 m.
    DEAR BUSH--I have rode all night to get here, and send news of the outbreak in Rogue River. No one has come through from Jacksonville since I left. We have certain news that four houses between Grave Creek and Rogue River are burned. It is presumed the families are all murdered. There is other intelligence, pretty reliable, that the families and houses between Wagoner's and Rogue River are all destroyed, and also the houses from Evans' to Vannoy's, on Rogue River.
    On Tuesday night the Indians attacked the miners low down on Grave Creek (12 miles below the road) and killed three men.
    The mail is already closed. Dearborn tells me he has given you the items, and the mail boy will not wait any longer. I left Dr. Henry of Yamhill at Turner's, on Cow Creek about 45 miles from here, last night. A party of about twenty men had collected there. I shall return as soon as a party can be raised. Lieut. Gibson, who has been surveying a route for a railroad, is at Winchester with about 90 men. Their animals are worn out, and the men are footsore, but I hope to get some of them to start immediately. Our citizens between this place and the canyon are preparing to go out.
Weekly Oregonian, Portland, October 20, 1855, page 1

For the Oregonian.
Latest from the South.
ROSEBURG, Oct. 10th, 1855.
    FRIEND DRYER--There is now a bloody Indian war raging in Rogue River Valley. Tuesday, at 12 m., I arrived at Grave Creek and there I met a party of a dozen men returning with a woman (Mrs. Niday) and three children. With the party was the mail carrier, going south, who told me that on Tuesday morning, just after he left Wagoner's, in company with two men, he passed a party of ten or fifteen Indians, stripped, and well armed. He rode on and soon met another party of about the same number, and as soon as he got within gunshot of the last party, those behind set up a howl and the party in advance fired a volley at them; they turned into the woods, and the Indians pursued on foot and for a short time gave them a very tight race. They came into the road again at Wagoner's; the house was on fire and the Indians yelling furiously. Turned into the woods again, and as they passed Harris' they heard five or six shots fired and saw a volume of smoke ascending. It is supposed that all in the neighborhood are killed. I started back to give the alarm; met several on the road and sent them on to the Grave Creek House.
    Last night I stopped at the "Six Bit House." No disturbance. At 3 o'clock this morning Dr. Paxton arrived at the "Six Bit House." Umpqua Jo told him on Tuesday afternoon that the Indians of the Shasta, Klamath, Horse Creek, Grave Creek and Rogue River tribes had combined and fixed upon that day to kill all the whites in Rogue River Valley; that it was their intention to blockade the Crescent City and Siskiyou Mountain and Canyon roads, and to murder all the whites. Dr. Paxton took the first horse he found, which happened to belong to an Indian, and started through the hills for Cow Creek. The Indians followed and fired at him repeatedly, but did not hit him. He had previously hid a woman and child in the mountains. As he passed the house of Mr. Haines, he saw twenty or thirty Indians trying to force an entrance; he supposed that Haines and family had fled to the woods. Soon after, he heard several guns fired about half a mile from Haines' house, and the Indians were howling fearfully. The Dr. thinks that the Indians had found the family and were murdering them. A short time before the firing, two men who were running from the Indians reported having seen Haines' little boy running through a field toward the woods.
    Umpqua Jo, who is a friendly Indian--was Fremont's guide, and has always fought for the whites--told Dr. Paxton that the Indians had killed Vannoy and family and six men; Haines and family; Harris and family; and Evans and family--in all about twenty-two persons. Miss Pellet was at Wagoner's at the time, and undoubtedly was murdered. 
    I started into the Umpqua Valley with Dr. Paxton, who has been elected captain, for the purpose of raising volunteers to battle with these red devils, and aid in preventing them from extending their atrocities any further.
ROSEBURG, Oct. 11.
    The people at first did not seem to credit the reports of the Indian disturbances, but I think they are now convinced that these accounts are too true, and that the Indians are really in earnest. But it is not yet too late to give these fiends in human shape the punishment they so richly deserve, and which I have no doubt they will speedily received.
    On my way to this place I met three Willametteites, well armed, returning;--
"He who fights and runs away,
 Will live to fight another day."
I will try to learn their names. Send us good men, for they are wanted, and let them be well armed.
    I shall start south this morning, and shall try to pass through the Canyon tonight.
    The Grave Creek House was guarded by eighteen men, with eight firearms, and they were preparing to defend Turner's, at the crossing of Cow Creek. When I left, there were about thirty-five men there and only about a third of them armed. Mrs. Miller, wife of Rev. J. W. Miller, was lying very sick at Turner's, and it was thought that she could not safely be taken through the Canyon. All the women and children that can be moved are being brought through to the valley.
    I shall write to you at every opportunity that I have of sending. Yours, &c.,
Weekly Oregonian, Portland, October 20, 1855, page 2

Letters from the South.
FOREST DALE, Jackson Co., O.T., Oct. 12th.
    EDITOR OREGONIAN:--I am under the painful necessity of informing you that our predictions relative to another Indian war have already been more than verified. The storm that has so long been hovering over us, and of which so much has been said and written, has burst with all its fury upon our devoted heads; and we are now reaping the bitter fruits of Indian philanthropy--the accursed results accruing from a corrupt administration of Indian affairs, particularly in southern Oregon. It is useless, however, at the present time, to comment further upon this subject. Former communications have to some extent advised you of the danger to which we have been exposed for months past, and the utter refusal of those to whom our rights are in a measure confided, to use such means as would frustrate the evil designs of a savage foe.
    For the present, or until hostilities cease, I shall content myself with giving you a simple narration of facts as they may transpire.
    Since my last communication, this entire section of country has been the scene of the most heart-rending massacres that have befallen the lot of man to witness.
    On Monday morning last, Oct. 8th, the volunteer forces previously referred to made a simultaneous attack upon three camps of Indians who had left the reserve with the obvious intention of committing depredations upon the settlers residing above the reserve, in the vicinity of Butte Creek [i.e., the Lupton Massacre].The plan of operations was well laid out, and most admirably executed. Not less than forty Indians suffered the penalty they have so long and so justly merited. The battle lasted four hours. Unfortunately, however, several citizens were wounded, one of whom (J. A. Lupton, member-elect to the assembly) has since died. On the following morning the several tribes on Rogue River, who have continued to commit depredations since June last, consummated the act which they have so long premeditated.
    Between Jewett's ferry and Jump-off Joe Creek, in a distance of only thirty-five miles, upwards of fifteen persons have been killed, inclusive of men, women and children. On the morning of this deplorable affair, Mr. Wagoner, residing on Rose Creek, left his house to accompany Miss Pellet, the lecturer, to Vannoy's ferry, a distance of four miles, leaving at home his wife and child, and an Indian who had frequently been employed as a servant about the premises. On his return he discovered his barn on fire, and some thirty well-armed Indians in and around his house. Knowing that it would be worse than useless to attempt to rescue his family, unarmed as he was, he immediately proceeded to alarm the neighborhood towards Evans' ferry. But sad to relate, all in that direction had shared the same fate. Mr. Jones was killed, and his wife mortally wounded--has since died, and along the road several men were lying dead, teams killed and goods destroyed. On returning, Mr. Wagoner's house was burned and the remains of Mrs. Wagoner and daughter lay smoldering in the ruins, while a short distance father on were a portion of the perpetrators of the foul deed, feasting on an ox and other etceteras, the fruits of plunder. A charge was immediately made and six of their number killed. On proceeding to the house of Mr. Harris, twenty-four hours after the attack, the owner was found dead, and a party of Indians surrounding a thicket of brushwood. The Indians immediately fled, when from the thicket, to the joyful surprise of all present, emerged Mrs. Harris bearing in her arms her wounded child. It seems that Mr. Harris was killed at the outset by an Umpqua Indian. Before dying, however, he showed his wife the manner in which to load the rifle, she being wholly unskilled in the use of firearms. With this and a revolver she kept possession of the house for twelve hours. Her little girl, though seriously wounded, kept a constant lookout through the apertures of the ceiling, and reported to her mother from time to time of the near approach of the enemy. Night coming on they retreated to the thicket, destitute of bullets, yet notwithstanding they kept up an incessant fire with powder alone, up to the moment of her rescue.
    Thus did this heroic woman keep at bay twenty-five or thirty bloodthirsty Indians for the space of twenty-four hours, and that too without a morsel of food or even a drop of water. Mr. Haines and family, living in that vicinity, are also murdered, and other families are yet to be heard from. It is more than probable that all living in that vicinity have shared alike. Col. John E. Ross, with his characteristic promptitude, has mustered into service several companies of mounted volunteers, who are rendering excellent service, and if the desires of all concerned are carried out, the occupation of an Indian agent here, like Othello's, will be gone.
    The policy pursued by parties to whom I have heretofore referred, relative to the official acts of those who have taken an active part in suppressing Indian hostilities for years past, has destroyed the confidence of many that the general government would render compensation for service rendered, or supplies furnished in such emergencies, consequently the requisite supplies in the present instance are being raised by direct contributions of money &c. from our citizens, a burden which they are illy able to bear.
CLARENDON [Charles S. Drew].
October 15th, 1855.
     FRIEND DRYER--A party of fourteen men left the Canyon on Thursday, Oct. 11th, for the Rogue River Valley. Saturday, arrived at the Grave Creek House. No news from the south. Organized a scouting party of fourteen, and started south. Passed Mrs. Viday's; but little damage done. Mr. Bowdin's house was in ashes; searched for Harris' little boy (in my last I stated that Haines' boy was seen running through a field towards the woods--it was Harris' boy); could not find anything that could give us any clue of him. Passed on to Harris'; the floor and casing of the door were bedaubed with blood; Mr. Harris' pants were hanging against the wall, completely covered with clotted blood. The Indians attacked Harris' house on Tuesday morning, Oct. 9; Mr. H. was shot directly at his back door; as he was falling, Mrs. H. caught him and pulled him into the house and barred the door. A girl of Mr. H., fourteen years of age, was shot in the arm by a pet Indian who had been living about Turner's, called Umpqua Jack. There is two bullet holes in the door where Harris was shot. Mrs. H. and the little girl defended the house all day, and at night hid themselves in the bushes; they were taken to Jacksonville by the soldiers. Mr. H.'s old house, in which was a quantity of grain, was burned down. Mr. Wagoner's house was burned, with Mrs. Wagoner and a child in it; their bones have been found in the ashes. Mr. Wagoner had started off that morning with Miss Pellet, and consequently escaped the horrid death of poor Mrs. W. and child. But who can imagine the grief of that poor man, and what on earth can atone for his loss? We passed on to Haines'. The sight there was the most horrible I ever beheld. The house was thrown open, and bedclothes covered with blood were scattered all over the room. What the Indians did not take, they destroyed. There were too bullet holes in the door shot from the outside, and one from the inside. Haines and his little boy were found dead in the house, their bodies terribly mangled, a part of the boy's brains were found near the corner of the house. Mrs. Haines, who was sick, it is supposed, escaped from the house that night with her little girl, and a man by the name of Frank Reed, who was lame, it is supposed was with her. It is now nearly a week since they were attacked, and neither of them could be found. It is supposed that they were found by the Indians, and killed. Mrs. H. may be with the Indians, alive.
    Among the hills along Jump-off Jo, we found goods carelessly thrown down, as if left by the Indians. There were a great number of hogs in this section, and they were wandering in every direction through the woods. The attack appears to have been almost a simultaneous one. The Indians had stolen some liquor from a wagon at Wagoner's, and what of fiendishness their hellish natures lacked before was made up by the liquor.
    Mr. Jones, who lives near Evans' Ferry, was killed by a band of pet Indians. Mrs. Jones was wounded and crept into a thicket, but was found by one of the straggling Indians and shot again. Her back was broke at first, and then she received a mortal wound in the arm. She begged of the Indian to kill her to end her sufferings and the fiend picked up a rock, and as he threw it at her, said, "G--d d--n you, I can kill you!" She sank down exhausted. The Indians, supposing her dead, left her; she was finally taken to Vannoy's, and there died.
    The whites, volunteers led by J. W. Miller, attacked a large band of Indians on Butte Creek and killed forty-one--twenty-five "bucks." Major Lupton was killed on the field, and nine of the whites were wounded, one of them mortally. At Wagoner's six Indians were killed by the "regulars," and one was killed by Mr. Harris; and thirty Indians were killed at Table Rock--making 38 in all.
    The following is a list of the whites that are killed and missing:
    Harris and boy; Mr. Haines, wife and two children; Mr. Jones and wife; Mrs. Wagoner and child; Frank Reed; Wm. Hamilton; Messrs. Powell, Bunch, Fox, White; six on Evans' Creek, one on Till Bar; Mr. Cartwright, two in road near Wagoner's; two at Jewett's Ferry; and two men by the name of Annett were killed in Illinois Valley--thirty-one in all.
    There has been some dastardly bungling among those whose duty it is to protect the citizens of this valley. The people are in earnest now--they will protect themselves. Yours, respectfully,
Weekly Oregonian, Portland, October 27, 1855, page 3

For the Oregonian.
The Battle of the Grave Creek Hills.
Attack on Cow Creek Valley, &c.
ROSEBURG, Nov. 8th, 1855.
    FRIEND DRYER:--We have at last had a battle with the red devils who have lately so desolated our fair land with all the horrors of Indian war. The whites had thought that the Indians were encamped in the vicinity of the "meadows," and had been making arrangements to attack them there. While the citizens along the road, having been lulled into a false security, were thinking that they were perfectly safe, [they] were all of a sudden attacked in Cow Creek Valley, south of the Canyon, on Tuesday evening, Oct. 23d, by a large band of Indians--some say from sixty to one hundred in number--their houses burned, their stock killed and driven off, and those who happened to be alone upon the road brutally murdered. Holland Bailey, of Lane County, was killed near the foot of the big hill south of Cow Creek; Chas. Johnson, orderly sergeant of Rinearson's company, was shot through the head while endeavoring to get a wounded man out of reach of the Indians; his body was mangled in a horrible manner. Mr. Minot was severely wounded in the abdomen; Daniel Boone was wounded in the hip. All the houses in the valley but three were burned down. The houses that are standing are Elliff's, Levens' and Smith's. All the grain in the valley was burned except that belonging to Levins and Smith. Large numbers of cattle were driven off to the mountains. A part of Capt. Rinearson's command were stationed in Cow Creek Valley, but there were not enough of them to prevent the Indians from destroying their property. Those that were there behaved like men.
    On Tuesday evening, Oct. 25th, Lieut. Kautz, with twelve men, while viewing a route for a military road, came on to a camp of Indians in the Cow Creek hills, and not knowing that they were hostile was surprised and driven from the ground. Two of his men were killed. The hiding place of the Indians was found, and preparations were made for an attack. Maj. Fitzgerald started immediately with his command, but after seeing the position that the Indians occupied, he did not deem it prudent for him to attack them with so small a force. Measures were then taken to concentrate all the regular and volunteer forces that could be raised. On Tuesday night, Oct. 26th, at 11 o'clock, Capt. Smith, in command of the regulars (Fitzgerald unfortunately was sick) and Col. Ross, in command of the volunteers, started on foot for the encampment of the Indians. We arrived at their old camp about daylight, and some of the regulars very injudiciously built a fire. In a short time we heard the Indians on the main dividing ridge between Cow Creek and Grave Creek, firing signal guns, and the whole body of men started for them. To get where the Indians were, we had to cross over a deep ravine and follow along the ridge of the hill about two miles. Capt. Smiley Harris had early in the morning crept up with his command to within half a mile of the Indians without their seeing him, but as soon as he saw the smoke he let the Indians know where he was, and they started out to attack him, but on seeing the men under Smith and Ross coming along the ridge of the mountain, they retreated to a high point of the ridge and there awaited the coming of the whites. Just at that time it would have been hard to tell a commander from a private, for they were all rushing along as fast as their legs could carry them to the point where the Indians were. As soon as they got within gunshot, the Indians retreated into a deep, timbered ravine, the waters of which run into Cow Creek, and the volunteers and regulars pursued on after them. In the ravine the most of the fighting was done. On the night of the 31st, we encamped in a hollow near a spring close to the battleground. That night will long be remembered by those who were there. The night was very cold, and what few blankets we had with us were used by the wounded, the rest having to keep themselves warm the best way they could. There was not an ax or a spade upon the ground. The volunteers had nothing to eat since Tuesday night, and were weary for want of sleep. On the morning of the 1st of November, the Indians came around on the points and commenced firing at us, but by the prompt action of Col. Ross they were driven off. Shortly after, a party of whites came in with horses to take away the wounded.
    Those who are acquainted with the Indians say there must be about three hundred Indians in this band. It is impossible now for a person to tell how many Indians were killed in the battle, but it is supposed that as many as twenty of them were made to bite the dust.
    Dr. Henry was on the ground, and in the thickest of the fight, and after the battle was over he acted the part of the good Samaritan among the wounded and dying. Dr. Stone was there, and doing his utmost to relieve the wounded.
    I obtained the following list of the killed and wounded from Dr. Henry, and I think it is correct.
    Capt. Harris' Company--Jonathan Pettegrew, killed; Ira Mayfield, L. F. Allen, Wm. Purnell, and ------ Harris, severely wounded; Thos. Goldsby, Thos. Gill, slightly wounded.
    Capt. Bruce's Company--Charles Goodwin, severely wounded.
    Capt. Welton's Company--John Kennedy, severely wounded.
    Capt. Williams' Company--John Winters, killed; John Stanus, severely wounded; Thos. Ryce, slightly wounded.
    Capt. Rinearson's Company--Henry Pearl and Jacob W. Miller, killed; James Pearcy, missing; Washington H. Crouch, severely wounded; Enoch Miller and E. Yager, slightly wounded.
    Capt. Gordon's Company--James M. Fordice, Wm. Wilson, Hawkins Shelton, severely wounded.
    Capt. Bailey's Company--John Gilespie, killed; John Walton, John C. Richardson, James Lapher, Thomas J. Aubrey, severely wounded; John Pankey, slightly wounded.
    Killed 9, missing 1, severely wounded 13, slightly wounded 12. Total 35.
    Capt. Smith of the regulars had 4 killed and 7 wounded, including Lieutenant Gibson (none mortally). One of Smith's men shot himself accidentally, on the night of the 1st of Nov., by drawing a gun towards him over a log. Three of the men wounded were wounded by the accidental discharge of a gun in camp, on the night of the 31st of October.
    There are but few Indian sympathizers in this part of the country, and he who would sympathize with hostile Indians now is worse than an Indian--an enemy to his country, a disgrace to himself and a dishonor to his race. It is to be regretted that there are men among us who will so much endanger the country as to attack and kill friendly Indians. Such things have been done. We have enough to do to fight Indians that are hostile.
Truly yours,
        E. SHEFFIELD.
Weekly Oregonian, Portland, November 24, 1855, page 2

For the Oregonian.
Late from the South.
ROSEBURG, Jan. 16, 1856.
    FRIEND DRYER:--Our spies have found Indians, and we shall probably have a fight in a day or two. The Indians are in the big bend of Cow Creek, about twenty miles above the residence of W. H. Biddle, and but a short distance from the "Hungry Hill" battleground. They are probably the same Indians that committed the depredations in Ten Mile Valley, on Lookingglass Creek, and it may be that some of the Rogue Rivers are with them. How numerous they are, or what their exact position is, is not known. Three full companies of volunteers--Gordon's, Chapman's and Bailey's, and a part of Boyce's company, can be concentrated at one point in twenty-four hours, and unless the Indians are more numerous than I think they are, with the men that can be brought into the field they ought to be easily whipped.
    A report came into town tonight that twenty-five Indians were seen last night on the South Umpqua Mountains, six miles above the Canyon. The report is well authenticated, but in nearly all of these reports the number of Indians was at first overrated. The mountains are full of Indians, and they are very hard to find. They have it here tonight that the Indians are two hundred strong in the big bend of Cow Creek, but no one knows how strong they are.
    Rumor has it that Col. Williams contemplated attacking the Indians at the Meadows, on the 10th of next month. Perhaps they will find them there, and perhaps they won't. From the signs of the times, I should judge that Bob Williams is going to prove all that his most ardent admirers anticipated--a vigorous prosecutor of the war, and the very best man that could be found to fill the office he holds. If I am not very much mistaken, the people will never regret that an "outsider" was defeated.
    For the last week the weather has been beautiful, and everything gives promise of a successful spring campaign. Our boys are in excellent health and spirits, and are all "eager for the fray."
Yours truly,
                Co. D, Southern Division, O.M.V.
Weekly Oregonian, Portland, February 2, 1856, page 2

Last revised June 18, 2013