A Southern Oregon filibuster?
"Honesty is the best policy"
The undersigned informs his friends and creditors that he has for several years been toiling and laboring hard to pay his just and honest debts, while residing in this county--that he has a wife and eight children to support and maintain by the labor of his own hands, and he feels that it is impossible, under existing circumstances, to pay his honest debts and maintain his family by his daily labor in this place; he therefore wishes to "seek a better country," that is, to remove from this county and procure for himself in the "western wilds" some lands where he can say "he has a home." He therefore would ask this question to his creditors--Can I pay you, or do you wish to keep me here with a large family struggling to avoid the lantern jaws of penury? He feels confident that it is better for him to go hence, and sincerely calls upon all to whom he is indebted to settle, take his note, run their risk for payment, and let him have license "to depart in peace"--and extend that "charity which suffereth long and is kind; which envieth not, is not puffed up; which beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."Covington township, Fountain County, Indiana
LEMUEL BILLS.Norwalk, June 7, 1836.
Huron Reflector, Norwalk, Ohio, June 21, 1836, page 4
Worthington Bills, 24, laborer, born in Vermont
U.S. Census, enumerated October 25, 1850
Placerville and vicinity, Eldorado County, California
Worthington Bills, 24, "miner for gold," born in Vermont
U.S. Census, enumerated November 30, 1850
[The sixth column of page four of the Oregonian of December 4, 1850 contains the advertisement of] Lemuel Bills, pump and aqueduct builder. He says he is prepared to mold candles at reasonable prices, and offers to pay cash for tallow. Location, Water Street, between Jefferson and Columbia.
"The First Oregonian," Morning Oregonian, Portland, January 1, 1900, page 36
That same year  Samuel Culver and family settled on the Chichester place; Lemuel Bills where the Leasure claim now is, Hiram Culver near to his brother and the Breeding family not far from College Hill.
Albert G. Walling, Illustrated History of Lane County, Oregon, 1884, page 391
The Indians are combined in a war party, some 300 strong. We discovered several whites among them.
Bvt. Major Phil Kearny to Major General R. Jones, June 19, 1851
[During their fight with Major Kearny, a]mong the Indians several white men were seen, aiding them and instructing them. It is believed that the Indians were led on by whites.
"Arrival of Messrs. Applegate and Scott," Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, July 22, 1851, page 2
We supposed, while in Rogue River Valley, we saw some whites among the Indians, but the extreme improbability of men accustomed to a civilized state of society adopting this mode of life, and waging a war of murder and robbery against their fellow citizens, inclined us to doubt the evidence of our senses.
"R.S.W.," Weekly Oregonian, Portland, August 9, 1851, page 2
This county [Huron County, Ohio] had three citizens in Washington--then Oregon--in the fall of 1851 or spring of 1852, viz: Captain Lemuel Bills, John Van Buskirk and H. Buckingham.
"Ohio Newspaper on Early History of Washington Territory," Morning Olympian, Olympia, Washington, September 15, 1907, page 4
GOLD IN SOUTHERN OREGON.
Its "First Discovery" Attributed to Men Named Bills.
Correspondence of Ashland Tidings.
It has been published and republished, iterated and reiterated some thousands of times, that James Clugage and James Pool in passing through the valley, from the Willamette to California, in the fall of 1851, camped on Rich Gulch, within the present corporate limits of Jacksonville, and that while in camp Mr. Pool did some prospecting with a pan and made the discovery. Nobody disputes the prospecting by Mr. Pool, or the finding of gold, but was this the first discovery in Southern Oregon? The purpose of this paper is to show that it was not.
Mr. David Linn, who has lived in Jacksonville since early in the spring of 1852, and whose word is as good as his bond, says he left Oregon City in the fall of 1851 in company with Wesley McGanigal, a man with whom he had just crossed the plains. They walked from Oregon City to Salem, and bought their outfit and two ponies. They packed the ponies and started on foot for California. Arriving at Canyonville, they found the town to consist of one log cabin, and no modern adjunct in the shape of a real estate agent to boom the prospects of the place and offer corner lots at bankrupt prices. The two men stopped here a short time for reinforcements, as it was considered dangerous for so small a party to travel through the Rogue River country. The next day after their arrival a party of three men came along, going to California, and together the five pursued their journey south, leaving Canyonville the morning of October 23, 1851. Mr. Linn remembers the date distinctly on account of it being his birthday. The party went through the Canyon in a day, and camped at Hardy Elliff's. Judge Skinner and party were there on their way to Rogue River, where Mr. Skinner was to take up his residence as Indian agent. The five men continued their journey on the 29th, leaving the Skinner party, who had ox teams, which would travel too slow for the packers.
On the 1st or 2nd day of November the party arrived at Perkins' ferry, on Rogue River. There were three or four men at the ferry, and they had built a stockade to protect themselves against the Indians. They advised the party not to cross the river until reinforced, as the Indians were hostile and had killed a number of persons up in the valley a few days before. The party, however, crossed the river, and went about two miles and camped for the night in a secluded bend in the river. The next morning, after starting out, they met a man on horseback, whom McGanigal recognized as an old schoolmate by the name of Bills. After greeting each other, Bills requested us to camp about a half mile south of the rocky point, a noted place for Indians to attack travelers, and that he would return in the evening, as he was only going to Perkins' ferry for some boards to cover his cabin. About sundown Bills returned, and McGanigal went with him up the river to Big Bar, and there found young Bills' father. They were engaged in mining, and had apparently been there for some time.
When McGanigal returned to camp he was greatly excited. He said there were thousands of Indians up there, but that young Bills and his father told him the Indians would not disturb the party, and that they could pursue their journey in safety. In passing up through the valley, the only evidence of civilization met was a log enclosure, four or five logs high at the back and one log in front, the sides tapering from the back to the front and forming a sort of scoop-shaped camp, without covering. There were some blankets and other things in the camp, indicating that someone was stopping there, but the party saw no one. This was at the Willow Springs. When the party arrived near where the flouring mill ditch crosses the county road above Phoenix, they came across three packers who had been killed by the Indians and thrown together, and the flour sacks cut open and the flour poured over them. As assured by the two Bills, the five reached Yreka without being molested.
Your correspondent expects this statement to call out a strong protest, if not a vigorous attack, because when an idea concerning any important matter or event becomes crystallized in the public mind, it becomes a sort of cherished memory, and if the idol is shattered or its foundations shaken, somebody is sure to kick.
Oregonian, Portland, January 19, 1900, page 6
The United States
to A. A. Skinner Dr.
Correspondence of the Spectator.
Letter from Rogue River Country--Treachery of a White Man--
Attempt by Him to Induce the Indians to Massacre the Miners!--Full Particulars.
Indian Agency, Stuart's Creek,Messrs. Editors:--We arrived here on the 15th November--found the Indians perfectly friendly--and they remained so until the 20th December. The Agent received an express from the falls (where some 12 or 16 miners were at work; it is also the residence of the 2nd Shasta chief, Sam), notifying him of approaching hostilities on the part of the Shasta Indians. He repaired to the spot immediately and ascertained that Worthington Bills, a most consummate scoundrel, was the cause of the difficulty. This Bills and his father had taken claims at the falls, some five or six weeks subsequent to our arrival. They entered into an agreement with the Indians for a tract of land, which contains some five or six sections. The Indians, on their part, were to prohibit the whites from settling on it, and when they sold their lands to government they were to make a reservation of that particular tract, for the two Bills' especial benefit. They were to build Sam (the Chief) a house, and give them various ictas ["things"]. Young Bills has legally married a niece of the chief's, according to the Shasta method--notwithstanding, I have been informed that he has a wife and three or four children in the States. They have done everything to ingratiate themselves into the good will of the Indians.
Dec. 28, '51.
Sam, the chief, informed the Agent that Bills told him the miners were going to shoot him through a certain crack in his house which Bills showed him. Bills did not deny the assertion. Sam also stated that he wanted him to commence at Mr. Long's, which is the farthest down the river, and exterminate all the whites, except the Agent. In the meantime, Bills sent his squaw to the Table Rock, distant five or six miles, to notify the Indians there that the miners would kill Sam. They sent an Indian immediately down the river 13 miles, where two of the subordinate chiefs resided (Sam's and Jo's brothers). They came immediately to the bar and asked the miners if they had killed Sam, their brother--whereupon an explanation took place, which seemed to satisfy both parties. Sam stated afterwards that if it had not been for his two brothers coming up, he would have attacked the whites that night. Bills, in the meantime, remarked to the miners, "Damn him," (meaning Sam), "why don't you shoot him." During the night the miners stood guard. Bills retired in the same room, and requested the guard to wake him when the Indians made the attack--that he wished to tell the Indians that he had nothing to do with the difficulty. The Agent arrested him and brought him to the agency; knowing that it was only a finable offense, he did not think it expedient to enforce the rigorous treatment of a criminal. Bills, on some pretext, went out and immediately fled. On the same night we searched diligently for him, but it was all of no avail. As there is no military force here, and not more than 40 whites, scattered over as many miles, the Agent thought it expedient to offer a reward which would induce the Indians to bring him in. The price was agreed upon and the Indians succeeded in capturing him that evening, which was the 24th ult. The express reached him at 12 p.m. informing him of the facts. He started immediately for the chief's residence, where he received the prisoner. He gave Mr. Dean charge of him, the gentleman that takes him to the [Willamette] valley.
Old Mr. Bills is the man that Dryer [T. J. Dryer, of the Oregonian] advertised last spring as having left without paying for his advertisement in, and subscription to, his paper.
The old man left about the 15th ult. for the Willamette Valley. He borrowed two or three horses from the miners, and has not been heard of since. It is the opinion of the citizens that he (the old man) laid the plan to exterminate all the whites, and that Worthington, his son, was to carry it out during his absence, and they were to have the Indians rob all the pack trains, and they would reap the rewards of the booty arising therefrom.
It is difficult for you in the valley to appreciate the anxiety we feel when we find such scoundrels, as this man has shown himself to be, lurking in our midst. Our situations and occupations necessarily expose us in many ways when the Indians, although of themselves friendly enough, can, if led on by villainous whites, not only steal our property, but take our lives without the shadow of hope on our part of being able to discover them in time to save ourselves, or that friends can ever learn with certainty what has become of those missing. There is no limit to the mischief such murderous villains can accomplish, and when caught the utmost vigor of the law should in every case, upon conviction, be enforced against them.
Yours, ROBT. PAINTER.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, January 20, 1852, page 2
Rogue River Dec. 28th 1851Mr. Anson Dart
Superintendent of Indian Affairs
for the Territory of Oregon
We, the undersigned citizens of Rogue River Valley, present this as our testimony of the character of Worthington Bills, now under arrest, charged with attempting to excite the Indians to hostilities.
Testimony of T. Thompson
On or about the 19th of Dec. last I was conversing with Mr. Worthington Bills as to the best method of ejecting one Mr. Gibbs from a claim I had commenced work on, which said Gibbs had jumped in my absence on business to the Willamette Valley. Mr. Worthington Bills said to me, "Never mind, I can get Gibbs off. I will get the Indians on him." I told him I did not wish such assistance. [signed] T. Thompson
Testimony of Sam Colver
I called on Worthington Bills a few days previous to his arrest. He told me to look sharp, to use his own words, "that Hell was a-brewing," that the Indians were going to give us a turn. I told him I had no fears from what I saw. He evidently wished to alarm me by his statement and, as I believe, for bad purposes, that I might assume a hostile or defensive bearing towards the Indians, that would at once lead to open hostilities. I was present at his arrest and trial before Judge Skinner, heard the testimony of Sam, the war chief, as interpreted from the jargon, who stated that said Bills told him that the whites were going to make an attack on the Indians and that they were going to shoot him through a crack in his house. The chiefs stated also that Mr. Bill had planned the conquest of the valley by the Indians from Long's ferry up to the foot of the Siskiyou Mountains. This last statement by the chiefs was interpreted by Wm. H. Corkins. In these and the statements of others who will be called on as witness in the case whose lives were threatened and menaced by the Indians are sufficient reasons we think for his removal from our midst; we regard him as a very dangerous man on our frontier. [signed] Sam Colver
Microcopy of Records of the Oregon Superintendency of Indian Affairs 1848-1873, Reel 12; Letters Received, 1852, enclosure to No. 6.
Rogue River Dec. 28th '51Gentlemen Sirs,
This is a statement of conversation between Mr. Bills and I. Bills told me one night as I was coming from work that Hell was a-brewing. This is his expression. I then asked what made him think so. He then told me that he had had conversation with Sam (the war chief) and Sam told his men was agoing [to] kill or waylay me and Lord (my partner) that night. He said he told him this in jargon. He also told us that he told another Indian in his presence in their language that his men that night was agoing to make an attack on us at our cabin. He said he understood their tongue and advised us to prepare for fight that night, for it was raining and that was their time. I told him the Indian agent ought to know this. Says he, "Boys, if go to so the agent don't tell him what I told you. If you do he will [tell] the Indians and they will be down on me, as I am alone. I shan't be safe here alone." We then invited him to go home with us and stay with us that night as he was alone. He hesitated and seemed loath to go. We went and consulted things; he advised [us to] keep up guard that [night] and he lay down and went to sleep, got up in the morning, went off with the Indian.
P.S. By the request of George Skinner
A. D. SloanI was knowing to the same conversation that took place between Bills and [Sloan].
A. J. LeonardAfter having this conversation with Mr. Lord and Mr. Sloan he stayed all night with me and in the morning he said that he would go into the chief's house and tell his family to remain in the house that we was not agoing to hurt them. And in place of telling them this he told them to move as quick as possible that we was agoing to kill them. Mr. Bills acknowledged to this and said that he meant no harm by telling them this. The chief then took Mr. Chriss by the hand and led me to this house and pointed to me a crack between the logs which Mr. Bills told him that I was agoing to shoot him through. Mr. Bills acknowledged to this and told us to kill him and I told him that we should not hurt him, that we would deliver him to Mr. Skinner, and he would deal with him as he seen proper.
E. H. Lord
Elijah ChrissNames of the two companies working on the bar at that time.
R. H. Moore
David KendallMicrocopy of Records of the Oregon Superintendency of Indian Affairs 1848-1873, Reel 12; Letters Received, 1852, enclosure to No. 6.
John S. Hibler
Rogue River Dec. 29, 1851
Since my last communication everything connected with the Indians in this valley remained perfectly quiet until about 20 inst. when I was informed of indications of hostility on the part of the bands of the Shasta Indians residing at the falls of the river and about 20 miles above Perkins Ferry. Immediately on learning these facts I repaired to the place (the residence of Sam, the principal war chief of the Shasta nation), and on examination I soon became satisfied that all the difficulty had been caused by a white man by the name of Worthington Bills, who has taken a claim near the house of Sam.
This man Bills and his father came into the valley last fall and located their claims some four or five weeks previous to my arrival. They have been living on the most familiar terms with the Indians, and the young man, although as I am informed [he] has a wife and four children somewhere in the States, has taken an Indian woman, a niece of Sam, and has been regularly married to her in accordance with the usages of the tribe. At the time these men located their claims they entered into an agreement with the Indians by which they were to reserve a small valley in which their claims were, containing several sections of land. By the terms of this agreement the Indians were never to permit any white men to settle within this reservation, nor were they ever to sell to the government of the United States, as on their first arrival making themselves liable to the penalty provided for in the 12th section of the act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes and to preserve peace on the frontiers approved June 30, 1834.
About the time of my arrival in the valley some twelve or fifteen men with consent of Joe and Sam built houses and commenced work, digging gold on the bar in the immediate neighborhood of Sam's house, but not so as to in any way to interfere with him or his house. Until about the 20th inst., the Indians appeared perfectly friendly and willing to have the whites remain on the bar. At this time the whites were occupying two cabins situate about four hundred yards apart. About this time the young man Bills commenced advising the white men to be on their guard against the Indians, for he believed they contemplated commencing hostilities and advised the white men to remove from one of their houses into one owned by his father, which at the time was vacant and situate within a few feet of one of the houses of the miners. From the indications of hostility on the part of the Indians the miners determined to remain in the house of old Mr. Bills and accordingly did so in the night. About this time the wife of the young man Bills who had gone over to Table Rock, a distance of some four or five miles, informed the Indians there that Bills had told her that the miners on the bar intended to murder Sam, their war chief. Immediately on hearing this an Indian started down the river to where two of the brothers of Sam resided and informed them of what he had heard, and they immediately came up to the bar and inquired for their brother and whether the whites had killed him and informed the whites what they had heard as coming from Bills. This information gave the whites an opportunity of an explanation which at the time appeared satisfactory. Sam immediately showed the white men (the miners) a hole or crack in his own house through which he alleged young Bills told him that one of the miners intended to shoot him. This statement was made in the presence of Bills and was not denied by him at the time, although Bills now denies ever having told Sam the whites intended to kill him. Sam also stated that from what Bills had told him and seeing the whites preparing for defense he supposed that the whites intended to murder him and commence hostilities, and if it had not been for the arrival of his two brothers from below and the explanation given by the white men he should have commenced the attack on them that night.
Sam further stated that young Bills a short time previous to this had advised him and his people to exterminate all the whites in the Rogue River Valley--to commence with Mr. Long, who lives lowest down the river and to massacre all the whites as they come along up the river with the exception of the Indian agent. This last statement was made in the presence of Bills. Bills denied ever having given Sam any such advice, but Sam still insisted that he had, and referred to the time and place where the conversation took place. It is extremely difficult, if not quite impossible, for me to give you any idea of the amount of confidence to which the statement of the Indians are entitled. In order properly to appreciate their statement it is necessary that you should see them and observe their manners.
From the facts stated in the foregoing & from those contained in the statements of Messrs. Thompson & Lord & Sloan and from what I have myself seen, I am satisfied that the Indians understood Bills to intend to communicate to them what they have stated to me. It is possible that from his imperfect knowledge of their language and the little knowledge they have of the Chinook jargon they might not have fully understood him.
From all I can learn from others and from my own observation I am fully convinced that it has been a leading object with both the young man and his father to learn the language of, and to acquire an influence over, the Indians. To what extent they have succeeded the latter object the present difficulty shows.
After learning the facts stated in the foregoing and in the statements above referred to I became fully satisfied that it would be altogether inconsistent with the safety of the white settlers in the valley to permit the young man Bills to remain in the country and consequently took him into custody, with the intention of removing him from this part at least of the Indian country under the provisions of the 10th sect. of an act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes and to preserve peace on the frontier, approved June 30, 1834, knowing that the offense for which he had been arrested only subjected him to removal from the country and to punishment by fine if he should be found guilty. I did not think myself at liberty to put him in irons or to use any great degree of severity, and accordingly I took him to my own house with the intention of having him sent to the Willamette as soon as practicable. The first night he was at my house pretending that it was necessary to attend to one of the calls of nature I permitted him to step to the door, when he immediately made his escape and fled as we have good reason to believe to one of the Indian villages about six or seven miles from my house.
The fact of his escape and fleeing to the Indians in my judgment tends to confirm his guilt and to render his removal from the valley still more necessary. And as there was no military force in the valley and not a sufficient number of miners and settlers to render a party to recapture him in case the Indians should be willing to have him taken I deemed it advisable to apply to the Indians to deliver him up. And in order to counteract any influence which Bills might have with the Indians I promised Joe & Sam & two of their brothers, who are subordinate chiefs, eight (8) blankets each, and also to Jo & Sam a good coat & pair of pants and shirt each, if they would deliver Bills into my custody. They consented to undertake to recapture him and about 12 o'clock at night of the same day I received news by an express that [they] had him in custody at Sam's house and wished me to come and receive him. I immediately went over and received the prisoner, and gave him in charge of Messrs. Dean and Thompson, with directions to use no unnecessary severity, but to make use of such means as they should deem necessary to prevent his again escaping.
I have also employed Messrs. Dean and Thompson to take the prisoner to Oregon City and deliver him into your charge that he may hereafter be dealt with according to law, and as I have no money in my hands belonging to the Department I have directed them to call on you for compensation for their time and traveling expenses.
At the time that I received the prisoner from the Indians Jo & Sam informed me that four other Indians had been particularly active in assisting them to capture him, and expressed a wish that I would in some way reward them, and in view of the critical state of affairs and the importance of having all the Indians satisfied I promised to give them two (2) blankets each, which together with those I first promised make the whole number of blankets necessary to be sent forty (40). I presume it not necessary for me to urge upon you the absolute necessity of my having the blankets to deliver to the Indians immediately on the return of Messrs. Dean & Thompson.
And for additional reasons for adopting the course I have with reference to the prisoner I beg leave to refer you to the accompanying statement of Saml. Colver Esqr. who is acquainted with all the facts connected with the case.
Mr. Colver has resided since the fall of 1851 in the upper part of the Willamette and is now here making arrangements to remove his family here in the spring.
You can judge from the accompanying statements [see above] whether the evidence is such as to make it advisable to commence a prosecution to recover the penalties for disturbing the peace, or for being found in an Indian country contrary to law.
I have the honor to beAnson Dart Esquire
Your obt. servt.
A. A. Skinner
Superintendent of Indian
Affairs for Oregon
Microcopy of Records of the Oregon Superintendency of Indian Affairs 1848-1873, Reel 12; Letters Received, 1851, No. 6.
Indian AgencyDear Sir
Rogue River Dec. 29, 1851
You will see by the accompanying communication that I have taken the responsibility of arresting and sending into the Willamette a white man whom I deemed it unsafe to let remain in the valley. From all I can learn of the previous character of the old man I am well satisfied that he is as guilty as the young man whom I have sent in, but all of his acts have been so concealed that we have not been able to get hold of anything that would justify sending him out of the country.
You are aware that I have no means of examining the law on the subject further than is afforded by the two acts of 1834, and may not have proceeded strictly in accordance with the law. But whatever may be the consequence to myself, the safety of all the whites both settlers and miners imperiously demands that Bills should not be permitted to return to this valley until there shall be a sufficient military force stationed here to protect us. For although this affair has undoubtedly weakened his influence with the Indians, there is too much reason to apprehend that his efforts to excite them to hostility would be strongly seconded by the old propensity of the Indians for robbing and plunder, and I should regard the whole settlement in imminent danger if he should be permitted to return. His conduct has shown him to be a reckless and unprincipled man, and one unfit to be permitted to remain in an Indian country situated as the Rogue River Valley is at present. If Bills is not permitted to return I do not apprehend much danger of difficulty with the Indians. They appeared entirely willing to give him up. At first Sam appeared rather reluctant, but before he left me to go after Bills he requested the interpreter to say to me that he was entirely willing to give him up and that he went into the affair with right good will. But in order to secure the peace of the country it is absolutely necessary that I should have the blankets by the return of Messrs. Dean and Thompson. If they should return without the blankets my influence would be gone forever, and it would not be advisable for me to remain a day in the valley.
Messrs. Dean & Thompson will incur considerable expense in taking Bills into the valley, and it would be a most serious damage to them as they wish to pack a load of provisions and need the money to buy their loads. If there should be any doubt as to the propriety of the government paying their expenses or furnishing blankets, they can be sent out on my account and applied in payment. Either of my salary or of house and office rent, so that there is no danger of the government's losing the amount if they ought not to pay the expenses or furnish the blankets. I must have the blankets. If you have not them on hand buy them at any price and charge them to me--no matter what the price.
I have pledged my word to Dean & Thompson that their actual expenses shall be paid & of course I would rather lose five times the amount than not have them paid.
Just previous to my writing to you on the 25th ult. I had a felon commence on the middle finger of my right hand which was at that time very painful, and which since that time has prevented me altogether from using my hand until this morning. And it is now so painful that it is almost impossible for me to write.
RespectfullyAnson Dart Esq.
A. A. Skinner
Microcopy of Records of the Oregon Superintendency of Indian Affairs 1848-1873, Reel 12; Letters Received, 1851, No. 7. A slightly different version is No. 9.
A Villain Caught.
A man by the name of Bills (an Oregonian) was brought down in irons on the Multnomah last week. He has for several months been among the Indians on Rogue River instigating attacks on the whites, in consequence of which, the Indians say, about twenty whites have been killed. Judge Skinner, the Indian agent, learned that he was among the Indians and had hired them to bring him in, giving them six blankets. But before an opportunity offered to send him into the settlements he made his escape. The agent then offered them forty blankets to bring him in. The second time he was caught just the other side of Table Rock, where the fight occurred last summer in which Lieut. Stuart was killed. He confesses his crime. He was sent down to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and we suppose will be tried at an early day.
Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, January 20, 1852, page 2
This is to warn all persons from purchasing any note or notes of hand given by me in favor of Lemuel Bills, as the same have been obtained through fraud and deception, and will not be paid.
JOHN LEASURE.Jan. 1, 1852.
Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, January 20, 1852, page 3
For the Spectator.
Oregon City, Jan. 23, '52.Editors Spectator--Gentlemen:--Having seen in your paper of the 20th inst. a communication from the Rogue River country, charging a Mr. Worthington Bills with inciting the Indians to acts of hostility against the whites, and containing other serious charges against the same person, I was taken by surprise and am quite astonished.
I have known Mr. Worthington Bills for some time. Knew him in the Rogue River country, on Rogue River, and never heard or supposed from his general character that any such offense could be perpetrated by him, and my object in addressing you at this time, from this place, rather than from my home at Tualatin Plains, is to testify, as far as my acquaintance as above is concerned, to his unexceptional good character--and also that to my knowledge he has used his best efforts, upon every occasion, to preserve peaceable relations between the whites and Indians. And at the recent difficulty there between the Indians and some persons engaged in driving hogs to the mines, in which one white man, Mr. Moffatt, and an Indian were killed, and another white man wounded, to my knowledge Mr. Worthington Bills was one of the most active and influential in endeavoring to allay feeling and prevent disturbance and bloodshed.
A. POMEROY.Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, January 27, 1852, page 2
To the Public.
Oregon City, O.T.Editor Spectator:--In your paper of the 20th inst., a communication from the Rogue River country appears, implicating in the highest degree the character of my son, Worthington Bills, and also my own. Feeling that the letter alluded to does me great injustice, I wish to give you a simple, plain statement of facts, supported by such evidence as I herewith offer to you:--My son is now in the hands of the law, and therefore as he is removed from all liability of being affected by prejudice or passion, I am content that he should await the action of the authority having control over him, and if it should in the end prove that he has been unjustly accused, I should be pleased to have the same publicity given to a notice of his innocence as has been given to the accusations against him. With regard to the letter of Mr. Painter's, the spirit of candor with which it seems to have been written forbids the thought of its having been prompted by any other motives than honest convictions, therefore I conceive I am the more called upon, in justice to myself, to offer to the public the following. In the letter alluded to it is stated--"This Bills and his father had taken claims at the falls, some five or six weeks subsequent to my arrival. They entered into an agreement with the Indians for a tract of land which contains some five or six sections." That portion of the above assertion which says that my son had taken a claim in Rogue River Valley is correct, but I never had a claim there myself, nor have I ever laid claim to any piece of land in the Rogue River country anywhere; but on the contrary I then owned a claim in Lane County upon which I resided most of the time after leaving Portland in February last, until about the 10th of October, when I started for the mines near Rogue River. The reason of my going to that country was simply that some time previous my son took a quantity of goods to that country to be sold, and receiving a letter from him to the effect that my presence was needed to settle up some business connected with their sale, and getting the balance due for them, I immediately started. After settling this business, and being pleased with that part of the valley, I looked some farther about the country, and made up my mind to settle in it. My son at this time made a claim, built a house upon it, and made other improvements preparatory to making a farm. I remained and assisted him some in commencing his improvements. At the same time his improvements were going on, I built for myself a house, on what is called the "gold bar," intending to devote my attention for a time to mining or trading at that point;--I also with a view to the promotion of good feeling and harmony between the whites and Indians, about this time built a house for the war chief "Sam," upon the condition that he should not permit the Indians to molest in any manner the whites in that section, or those traveling through it; and also that he should prevent the other Indians from burning off the grass in that vicinity. There was no other condition of any manner or kind attached to this transaction; and so far from my son having anything to do in building this house for this chief, he was only engaged in assisting me to fulfill my own engagements, which was no more than others there also done; among whom was Mr. Dean, who was employed to bring my son into this valley--he, Mr. Dean, and all others in the vicinity being familiar with the purpose for which it was being built, and everyone in the neighborhood knowing to the circumstance of my building the house for the chief, highly approved of the idea, and thought it would be of much service in promoting good feeling between all parties. Among those thus approving was the gentleman last named, and the Indian Agent himself.
Jan. 23rd, '52.
With regard to the second assertion, quoted above from this letter, it is entirely unfounded, so far as I am concerned, and I have no knowledge of my son being engaged in any such transaction; but if he has, as I said before, he is responsible to the tribunals of his country. In this letter it is charged against me that about the 18th ult. (his letter being written in December) I left for the Willamette Valley, and that I "borrowed two or three horses from the miners and have not been heard of since." The facts are that I left there on the 10th of December to come to this valley for the single purpose of selling my improvements and claim in this valley, and of procuring a load of supplies to take back to Rogue River Valley for winter use. Before leaving I made an arrangement with a Mr. Jacob Painter, Mr. Sloan, and Mr. Lord, for two horses and one mule belonging to these gentlemen, to be brought by me to the settlements, loaded with provisions, &c., and drove back again; the loads of each of those animals, upon their arrival, to be equally divided between the owner of the horse and myself. This I have done. I loaded the animals and started them for that section, in the care of Mr. Hitt, some days since, and at this time they must have accomplished something more than half their journey.
Mr. Painter also says, "It is the opinion of the citizens that he (the old man) laid the plan to exterminate all the whites, and that Worthington, his son, was to carry it out in his absence; and they were to have the Indians rob all the pack trains and they would reap the rewards of the booty arising therefrom." It would seem to be quite idle for me to simply deny the truth of any part of this assertion, inasmuch as perhaps some evidence besides my own denial might be called for; but it is simply an assertion--and one quite easy to make--and perhaps quite as difficult for the author to prove correct, as for me to show unfounded. What the secret opinions of men may be it is impossible for others to know, and that my secret intentions and designs were not as above represented, I acknowledge would be impossible for me to prove by others. But with regard to the above assertion, I am willing and anxious that my acts while in that country should meet and undergo any examination that may be considered called for by the circumstances of the case. I am conscious of no such design, and am prepared for an investigation of all things connected with my residence there at any and all times.
With regard to the allusion in this letter to my being the same man published by Mr. Dryer, of the Oregonian, last spring, for leaving the country indebted to him, this is the first notice of such publication that I have received. When I left Portland I was not aware that I owed the editor of the Oregonian a penny, nor am I now. It is true I had some business with him in the way of advertising and having handbills printed, &c.; but I always either paid each bill thus made myself or left the means with which it should be done in the hands of my clerks, with orders to pay it to him--and if any bill has ever been left unpaid it was on account of my directions not being attended to--and in no case intentional. If by any means any just demand thus holden by Mr. Dryer has not been paid, I do now and have at all times stood ready to pay it upon presentation. With regard to his hasty publication of me in this manner (which I have never seen) I would simply say that no gentleman would thus treat another. He, nor any other man, ever had the slightest reason to suppose that I intended to leave this country, and if a bill did remain against me, due to him, he had no reason to suppose I would refuse to pay it; for I had a good deal of printing done at his office, and always paid him promptly, as he cannot deny.
In support of my own statements, as to where I resided previous to starting for the Rogue River country, as I said before, I offer the following certificates.
Lane County, Jan. 10, 1852.
We, the undersigned, have been acquainted with Lemuel Bills from five to eighteen months, and have known him to be upright and straightforward in all business transactions.
E. F. Skinner,and ten others, citizens of the same county.
E. L. Bristow,
J. W. Poindexter,
I have been acquainted six months with Lemuel Bills. He has been laboring on my mill. His dealing with me has been honest.
We agree in the above, with regard to the character of Mr. Lemuel Bills.
Louis Calhoun,Several other certificates of a like nature with the above were shown us by Mr. Bills, which it is considered unnecessary to publish--Eds.
P. F. Castleman.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, February 3, 1852, page 1
In an article published in the last number of the Statesman respecting a Mr. Bills arrested in the Rogue River country, we stated that he confessed the crime with which he was charged. We made the statement upon the authority, as we were told, of Judge Skinner, the Indian agent. But we learn that it was incorrect--that Mr. Bills expressly denies the accusation, and expresses an entire willingness to undergo an examination, confident of his ability to establish his innocence.
Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, January 27, 1852, page 2
Done by the subscriber at Steilacoom, upon most reasonable terms. Always on hand to execute orders with promptness and dispatch.
LEMUEL BILLS.Steilacoom, Aug. 11, 1853.
Pioneer and Democrat, Olympia, Washington, March 18, 1854, page 3
Mr. Worthington Bills in a letter to his father, of the same date [October 3, 1855] as the above, in speaking of their prospects says: "The mines are none of the best, no big strikes. We can make from four to seven dollars per day. We have not made a very large sum to take into consideration the loss of our horses. We have provisions sufficient to last us all winter."
Puget Sound Courier, Steilacoom, Washington, November 30, 1855, page 2 Bills was participating in the Fort Colville gold rush in northeastern Washington.
Territory of Oregon Yamhill County s.s.
On this 28th day of June 1856 before the undersigned personally came Alonzo A. Skinner who being first duly sworn says that in relation to & in explanation of the accounts of Nathaniel C. Dean and John E. Ross, the former amounting to $77.50--the latter to $35.00, for expenses paid in removing Worthington Bills from Rogue River Valley to the office of the Supt. Ind. Affairs at Milwaukie by his order, that said Bills was arrested by him for attempting to incite the Indians of Rogue River Valley to hostility against the whites. That the amount though stated in the account to have been received of Anson Dart Supt. Ind. Affairs was not so received of him, nor has the money ever been paid to said Dean & Ross but that he (the said Skinner) has become personally responsible to them for the amount of their accounts respectively. That Supt. Dart had thentofore [sic] paid accounts of a similar character connected with & growing out of the same transaction, and that it was for that reason the receipts above referred to were taken in the name of the Supt. Ind. Affairs, and not of himself, with the view of having the amount so assumed by him paid to him by the Supt. & by him paid to said Dean & Ross, and the account rendered by the Supt. and not by himself.
A. A. SkinnerSubscribed & sworn to before me this 28th day of June 1856.
John CareyFrames 874-876, National Archives Microfilm Publications Microcopy No. 234 Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs 1824-81, Reel 609 Oregon Superintendency, 1856.
Justice of the Peace
for Yamhill County
Salem O.T. March 17th 1858
I beg leave to transmit for your consideration an account in favor of L. A. Davis for surveying and state the circumstances in connection with it, and beg that you will advise me by what means it is to be paid. I was employed by Supt. Palmer in January 1855 to survey and mark out the boundary of the Table Rock Reservation, which I did in connection with Mr. Davis, and for which we have never received compensation. The charge was less than private individuals were paying for the same service. Now what I have to ask is that the account be paid or one half of it which is going to Mr. Davis and I will say no more about what is coming to me.
I have the honor to be
Yr. obt. servt.
R. B. Metcalfe
Milwaukie O.T. Jan. 15th 1852Territory of Oregon )
Received of N. C. Dean $6.00 for three dinner sup. lodg. and break.
Jan. 15 Received payment
S. W. Childs
----N. C. Dean &
To A. H. Frier Dr.
----N. C. Dean Esqr.
To steamer Multnomah
----The United States
to N. C. Dean Dr.
To expenses paid in removing Worthington Bills from Rogue River Valley to the office of the Supt. of Indian Affairs at Milwaukie O.T. by order of A. A. Skinner, Ind. Agent for southwestern Oregon, 1852.
of seventy seven dollars, in full of this account $77.50
Nathaniel C. DeanTerritory of Oregon )
Jackson County ) s.s.
Nathaniel C. Dean being first duly sworn says that the services specified in the above account were actually rendered at the time and for the purpose therein mentioned, by order of the said A. A. Skinner, late Indian Agent as aforesaid. That the price charged therefor is just and reasonable, and that said account has never been paid by the said Skinner nor by any other person.
Nathaniel C. DeanSubscribed and sworn to before me the undersigned Clerk of the District Court for the Third Judicial District of Oregon.
Witness my hand and the seal of said court
this 23rd day of January A.D. 1858
James M. Pyle Clerk
per J. B. Sifers Deputy
Clatsop County ) s.s.
Alonzo A. Skinner being first duly sworn, says that in the months of December 1851 and Jany. 1852 he was Indian Agent in Oregon Territory, and that as such Indian Agent he employed the said Nathaniel C. Dean at the time mentioned in the within account to perform the services therein specified; that the price charged for said services is just and reasonable; and that he verily believes that the said Dean actually expended the amount of money charged in said account in performing the services therein mentioned, and that the same was actually necessary to enable him to perform the services for which he was employed, and that the amount of said account has never been paid by him or to his knowledge by any other person.
Alonzo A. SkinnerSworn to and subscribed before me this 27th day of February A.D. 1858.
James WayneThe United States
Auditor of Clatsop Co. O.T.
to John E. Ross Dr.
To 7 days services in removing Worthington Bills from Rogue River Valley to the office of the Supt. of Indian Affairs at Milwaukie O.T. by order of A. A. Skinner, Ind. Agent for S.W. Oregon, at $5 per day $35.00.
Received Jany. 23rd 1858
of thirty five dollars, in full of this account $35.00
John E. RossTerritory of Oregon )
Jackson County ) s.s.
John E. Ross being first duly sworn says that the services specified in the above account were actually rendered at the time and for the purpose therein mentioned by order of the said A. A. Skinner, late Indian Agent as aforesaid. That the price charged therefor is just and reasonable, and that said account has never been paid by the said Skinner nor by any other person.
John E. RossSubscribed and sworn to before me the undersigned Clerk of the District Court for the Third Judicial District of Oregon.
Witness my hand and the seal of said courtTerritory of Oregon )
for Jackson County
this 23rd day of January A.D. 1858
James M. Pyle Clerk
per J. B. Sifers Deputy
Clatsop County ) s.s.
Alonzo A. Skinner being first duly sworn, says that in the months of December 1851 and Jany. 1852 he was Indian Agent in Oregon Territory, and that as such Indian Agent he employed the said John E. Ross at the time mentioned in the within account to perform the services therein specified; that the price charged for said services is just and reasonable; and not more than the usual charge for similar services at the time said services were rendered, and that the amount of said account has never been paid by him or to his knowledge by any other person.
Alonzo A. SkinnerSworn to and subscribed before me this 27th day of February A.D. 1858.
James Wayne, AuditorNARA Series M234 Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs 1824-81, Reel 611 Oregon Superintendency, 1858-1859, frames 569-576.
of Clatsop County O.T.
In the auditor's office book No. 1 of deed records is one of these old volumes, and [it] opens with a quitclaim deed from Lemuel Bills to Mrs. Mary Harn, dated April 15, 1859, and recites that for $400 "lawful money of the United States" the grantor does quit claim all his right and title to that part of "Bills' addition to the town of Steilacoom" known as Block No. 6.
"Interesting Records of the Steilacoom Court House," Tacoma Daily News, October 12, 1896, page 4
Bitterroot Valley, Washington Territory
Worthington Bills, 33, farmer, born in Vermont
U.S. Census, enumerated September 14, 1860
Bitterroot Valley, Washington Territory
Worthington Bills, farmer, 7 acres improved, 153 acres unimproved, $500 worth of agricultural implements, 3 horses, 5 milk cows, 6 other cattle, 1 swine
U.S. Census 1860 Schedule 4, Production of Agriculture
To My Friends:--I have lived and been blessed with freedom of thought, action and expression of opinion nearly sixty years in this land of freedom and my country, and under the Constitution and the laws it has ever been my earnest aim to enjoy and transmit to my children the boon of civil liberty given in my charge to enjoy and transmit. My country is now convulsed with a gigantic rebellion. I had and have still a duty to perform. I went to the convention at Byrd's Mill and there, with the Union men of this county, assisted in selecting men to be supported at the coming election by the freemen of my country, and to uphold the institutions of our beloved country, and went there in good faith and shall support the principle I went there to further, believing my duty to my country demands it. I knew nothing of my nomination at the courthouse, and I hereby decline the nomination there tendered me, although I would be proud to serve in any capacity that a majority of my countrymen should require me to serve. With thanks, I subscribe myself an old and loyal citizen.
LEMUEL BILLS.Puget Sound Herald, Steilacoom, July 10, 1862, page 2
Bills, Worthington, Grass Valley.
"A List of White Persons Who Resided in Missoula County (Washington Territory) During the Winter of 1862 and 1863," Contributions to the Historical Society of Montana, vol. I, 1902, page 305
are coming in vogue, in proof of which I adduce the recent benedicting of our genial young friend J. R. Latimer, who has led to the hymeneal altar Miss Eliza, only daughter of Worthing Bills, Esq., one of the pioneer farmers of the Hell Gate Valley. May haven shower its choicest blessings upon the happy pair, and may lots more of the boys go and behave in a likewise manner, so as to render it interesting for the balance of us unhappy mortals, who are on the herd yet.
"From Missoula," The New North-West, Deer Lodge, Montana, November 8, 1873, page 2
DEAD--By a private telegram received last evening from Steilacoom, W.T., we learn that Mr. Lemuel Bills, father of the late Cincinnati Bills, departed this life at that place yesterday. He died at an advanced age.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, August 10, 1875, page 3
Union township, Clermont County, Ohio
Worthington Bills, 49, peddler, born in Ohio, father Scotland, mother Vermont
Emily Bills, 32, wife, born in Ohio, father New Jersey, mother Virginia
Stella Worthington, 6, stepdaughter, father's birthplace unknown
Laura Bills, 1, daughter, born in Ohio
Lemuel Bills, 1 month (born April), son, born in Ohio
U.S. Census, enumerated June 8, 1880
Lemuel Bills, pump maker, was the grandfather of George Bills and father of Sheriff Bills. He is remembered as a man of striking presence. He died about 1870.
"Names in the Paper: Advertisers and Other Persons Whose Names Are in the First Oregonian," Morning Oregonian, Portland, December 4, 1900, page 24
FIRST DISCOVERY OF GOLD IN SOUTHERN OREGON.
It has been published and republished, iterated and reiterated some thousands of times that James Clugage and James Pool in passing through the valley from the Willamette to California, in the fall of 1851, camped on Rich Gulch, within the present corporate limits of Jacksonville, and that while in camp Mr. Pool did some prospecting with a pan and made the discovery. Nobody disputes the prospecting by Mr. Pool, or the finding of gold, but was this the first discovery in Southern Oregon? The purpose of this paper is to show that it was not.
Mr. David Linn, who has lived in Jacksonville since early in the spring of '52, and whose word is as good as his bond, says he left Oregon City in the fall of '51 in company with Wesley McGanigal, a man with whom he had just crossed the plains. They walked from Oregon City to Salem, and bought their outfit and two ponies. They packed the ponies and started on foot for California. Arriving at Canyonville they found the town to consist of one log cabin, and no modern adjunct in the shape of a real estate agent to boom the prospects of the place and offer corner lots at bankrupt prices. The two men stopped here a short time for reinforcements, as it was considered dangerous for so small a party to travel through the Rogue River country. The next day after their arrival a party of three men came along going to California, and together the five pursued their journey south, leaving Canyonville on the morning of Oct. 28, 1851. Mr. Linn remembers the date distinctly on account of its being his birthday. The party went through the Canyon in a day, and camped at Hardy Elliff's. Judge Skinner and party were there on their way to Rogue River, where Mr. Skinner was to take up his residence as Indian agent. The five men continued their journey on the 29th, leaving the Skinner party, who had ox teams which would travel too slow for the packers.
On the first or second day of November the party arrived at Perkins' ferry on Rogue River. There were three or four men at the ferry, and they had built a stockade to protect themselves against the Indians. They advised the party not to cross the river until reinforced, as the Indians were hostile and had killed a number of persons up in the valley a few days before. The party, however, crossed the river, and went about two miles and camped for the night in a secluded bend of the river. The next morning after starting out, they met a man on horseback, whom McGanigal recognized as an old schoolmate by the name of Bills. After greeting each other, Bills requested us to camp about a half mile south of the rocky point, a noted place for Indians to attack travelers, and that he would return in the evening, as he was only going to Perkins' ferry for some boards to cover his cabin. About sundown Bills returned, and McGanigal went with him up the river to Big Bar, and there found young Bills' father. They were engaged in mining, and had apparently been there for some time. When Mc. returned to camp he was greatly excited. He said there were thousands of Indians up there, but that young Bills and his father told him the Indians would not disturb the party, and that they could pursue their journey in safety. In passing up through the valley, the only evidence of civilization met was a log enclosure four or five logs high at the back and one log in front, the sides tapering from the back to the front and forming a sort of scoop-shaped camp, without covering. There were some blankets and other things in the camp, indicating that someone was stopping there, but the party saw no one. This was at the Willow Springs. When the party arrived near where the flouring mill ditch crosses the county road above Phoenix, they came across three packers who had been killed by the Indians and thrown together, and the flour sacks cut open and the flour poured over them. As assured by the two Bills, the five reached Yreka without being molested.
Your correspondent expects this statement to call out a strong protest, if not a vigorous attack, because when an idea concerning any important matter or event becomes crystallized in the public mind, it becomes a sort of cherished memory, and if the idol is shattered or its foundations shaken, somebody is sure to kick.
Undated clipping circa 1910, Southern Oregon Pioneer Society scrapbook 18/23, page 31, Southern Oregon Historical Society MS517
CINCINNATI BILLS.The life of Cincinnati Bills was largely spent upon the frontier, as from
time to time through the period of his youth and early manhood he removed westward. He was one of New England's native sons, his birth having occurred in Vermont in 1825, his parents being Captain Lemuel and Liddie Bills. His father was an Indian fighter and also one of the first settlers of Oregon. The son acquired his education in the common schools of his native state and when still quite young learned the shoemaker's trade. He also mastered the trade of pump-making. He was a young lad when he removed with his parents to Ohio and subsequently accompanied them to Indiana, the family home being established at Covington, where he assisted his father in the pump-making business. His youth was largely a period of earnest and unremitting toil, during which time he came to a full realization of the value of industry and energy as effective forces in life's work.
While residing in Covington Mr. Bills became acquainted with Miss Anna E. Adkins, a daughter of Granville and Ipsley (Osburg) Adkins. Their friendship ripening into love, they were married April 4, 1850, and began their domestic life in Indiana, but on the 15th of February, 1853 [sic], they started for the far west with a covered wagon and team of oxen. In the meantime two children had been born unto them, and the other members of the party were Mr. Bills' sister, Mrs. Roher, and his brother, Worthington Bills. The entire train consisted of five wagons and quite a number of people, for at that time parties traveled together for protection and mutual assistance. There was at this time a rather clearly defined wagon trail across the country to the northwest, and altogether theirs was a pleasant trip. Moreover, they made it in a time which exceeded that of any other party, reaching the foot of the Cascade Mountains on the first day of July, being only four months and fifteen days on the way.
Having arrived in the Pacific Coast country, Mr. Bills purchased three hundred and twenty acres of land in Multnomah County about nine miles from Portland. A previous settler had taken possession of this farm but no improvements had been made except that a small log cabin had been built. In that home Mr. and Mrs. Bills with their children began housekeeping. They lived upon that farm for only two years, when they were frightened away by the Cascade Indians and took up their abode in the then town of Portland, which had not yet completed five years of its existence. There Mr. Bills worked at anything that he could find to do for about two years, when he purchased an interest in the dray company which afterward became the O. & T. Company, of which he was made manager. He continued in that position of executive control until his death, which occurred December 17, 1871. He was well known in the early days as an active and reliable business man and, moreover, he was honored with public office, being chosen sheriff of Multnomah County. He was also one of the early members of the Masonic lodge and of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and was an active member of the Methodist church, in which he held office. His life's labors ended, he was laid to rest in the Lone Fir Cemetery. Much credit is due to the early settlers who came to Portland in its pioneer times and aided in promoting its interests and laying a safe and broad foundation upon which the city has since builded its present prosperity and progress.
No history of Portland would be complete without further mention of Mrs. Bills, now one of the well-known pioneer ladies here. Her birth occurred in Fountain County, Indiana, July 25, 1829. Her father was a farmer as well as a cooper and shoemaker. Her girlhood days were spent in Indiana when it was a frontier district, and on reaching womanhood she gave her hand in marriage to Mr. Bills. They became the parents of nine children, of whom four died in infancy. Marion, who died at the age of thirty-one years, had married Helen Menzes, and they were the parents of four children. Lillian Ann became the wife of George V. James, of Portland, and had four children: Jessie, Helen, George, and Marion. Mary E. is the wife of Morton Spaulding, of Portland, and they have two children: Morton R. and Lethie. Eliza is the wife of Fred A. Young and they have four children: Maynard, Byron, George and Edna. George, the youngest of the surviving members of the family, is still a resident of Portland.
Mrs. Bills is a member of the Oregon Pioneer Society and the Methodist Church. She has lived at her present home at the corner of Sixteenth Street North and Flanders Street since 1881, and has spent the greater part of her life in this city. For about three years she has been confined to her bed but bears her sufferings uncomplainingly. She is generally known as Grandma Bills and has a wide acquaintance in this city. A fact worthy of perpetuation in Portland's history is that she made, in 1862, with her own hands, the first American flag that ever floated over this city. In recognition of this there was written a little poem called "A Garland of Laurel." . . .
Joseph Gaston, Portland, Oregon, Its History and Builders, vol. 3, 1911, pages 614-615
The accepted legend is that James Clugage and James Poole bore the same relation to gold mining in Oregon that Bennett and Marshall did to that in California, Clugage and Poole having panned the first color late in 1851, in the gulch where now stands the town of Jacksonville. But a quarter of a century or so ago, when the topic was fresh and also controversial, a number of highly credible witnesses came forward to testify that for some time prior to the autumn of 1851 mining operations were being carried on by a man named Bills, on Big Bar, on the Rogue River, not far from Perkins' ferry. David Linn, later a pioneer settler in Jacksonville, and Wesley McGanigal set out from Oregon City in October, 1851, on foot for Salem, where they outfitted for the California mines. Linn, whose credibility was good and whose story was confirmed by others, said that he and his fellow travelers came upon Bills some weeks prior to the Jacksonville discovery, and that he had then apparently been mining for some time. Another contributor to the history of the period, Lee Laughlin of North Yamhill, laid claim in behalf of his party to having found gold in the Rogue River in September, 1849.
"Gold Discovery on the Pacific Coast," Oregonian, Portland, May 14, 1922, page C8
Worthington Bills, who was born in Vermont about 1827, was one of the earliest settlers near Frenchtown[, Montana]. He and Robert Pelkey started their farms in1859. This was in Hell's Gate Ronde, now known as Grass Valley, and one of the earliest farming centers in Montana. Although Neil McArthur and Louis Maillet had started a ranch there in 1857, it was not permanent. The real founders of Frenchtown were Louis Brown and Baptiste Ducharme, who in 1858 or '59 located farms and built houses in the Ronde.
The bushel of wheat which Bills borrowed from Fort Owen [on February 29, 1860] may have been for seed that helped establish him as a farmer.
George F. Weisel, Men and Trade on the Northwest Frontier, vol. 2, Montana State University Press 1955, pages 226-227. The paragraphs about Bills are followed by his three entries in the Fort Owen ledger, dated February 29, March 24 and June 15, 1860. Weisel's source is History of Montana, Warner, Beers & Co. 1885, page 848.
A section of Seattle's first enclosed water system, probably 100 years old, was uncovered yesterday by freeway contractors at Sixth Avenue and James Street. . . . The system, according to [William C.] Speidel, was built by the Rev. Daniel Bagley. The pipes were made by Lemuel Bills.
"Relic of Pioneers' Water Line Dug Up," Seattle Daily Times, October 16, 1963, page 14
Lemuel Bills, a name unknown in the Steilacoom of today, was an enterprising New Englander who filed a 320-acre donation claim next to that of Lafayette Balch in March of 1852. According to Bonney's History of Pierce County, Bills platted a portion of his claim for a town site as the "Town of Steilacoom," entering into competition with Balch and Chapman in the sale of lots. Thus he became the third founder of Steilacoom.
Bills' migration west was typical of many seeking opportunities in the mid-1800s. He was born in Chittenden County, Vermont, in 1802. He married and with his wife Lydia and three sons, Worthington, Cincinnati and Lexington, moved to Huron County, Ohio. While in Ohio, three more children were born. In 1850 the family was in Fountain, Indiana, where Bills was listed as a pump maker. That year he traveled over the Oregon Trail to Portland. His wife's name is not included in the list of those who came that year. There is some question as to whether she came west at all, though one source indicates she died in 1853 and was buried in Steilacoom.
In the first issue of The Oregonian, published on December 4, 1850, there were many advertisements for the new city of Portland. Among those was the following: "Lemuel Bills, pump and aqueduct builder. Prepared to mold candles at reasonable prices and offers cash for tallow. Location Water Street between Jefferson and Columbia." He would appear to have been a versatile man--from building aqueducts to molding candles.
Tales of the Pacific Northwest quickly drew him to the Puget Sound area, where he filed his claim. Since the claim was for 320 acres, rather than the 640 acres a married man with a wife was entitled to, Lydia may not have been with him. A diagram attached to the land records indicates that his home was across from present-day Sunnyside Beach, northeast of Bob Anderson's home. A large garden is also drawn, which is appropriate, since in the 1860 census Bills is listed as a farmer, age 58. The property extended from the water to Shepard Street, over to Roe Street, across Steilacoom Boulevard into the Madrona Park area. By 1854 his son Worthington had joined him. He is listed in the census as a whip maker.
Lemuel is mentioned frequently in Bonney. He ran for the first Washington Territorial Legislature in 1854, but was defeated. During the Indian wars he was a volunteer in Company E of the 2nd Regiment from February to May 31, 1856. When a fire in 1859 destroyed the records at the County Auditor's office, the Pierce County commissioners ordered Auditor Bradley to place on record "a certified copy of the original plats of the Town of Steilacoom, as recorded by Lafayette Balch, John Chapman and Lemuel Bills."
Bills requested that the county commissioners approve his proposal to build a wharf at the foot of Puyallup Street in 1859. According to Bonney, it was placed over for consideration, with no further reference to it. That same year the commissioners appointed him to the position of wreck master. This was a very responsible job, being in charge of volunteers to go out to rescue those shipwrecked and to oversee salvage of ships at sea. This would cover any wrecked ship in the waters of Puget Sound under the jurisdiction of Pierce County. He was familiar with ships and in some records was referred to as "Captain Bills."
In 1861 he again ran for the legislature, unsuccessfully. That same year he was paid $21.25 for hauling 14,172 feet of lumber at the rate of $1.50 per thousand for the repair of the county jail. Finding a variety of jobs, he was paid for services on the road which passed by his name from Schmeigs' Brewery on Lafayette Street to the Chambers Creek mill.
Lemuel Bills died on August 9, 1875, at the age of 73 in Steilacoom. There is no record of where he was buried.
As the third founder, Lemuel Bills stayed in Steilacoom longer than the others. Besides leaving his name on Steilacoom's map as the Bills Addition, he named the streets of Worthington, Lexington and Cincinnati for his sons. Lemuel Bills definitely deserves his place in the history of Steilacoom.
Steilacoom Historical Museum Quarterly, Fall 2004, pages 4-5
Last revised May 4, 2017