I was first invited to deliver an address of welcome to the Indian war veterans, who meet here to-day; but within the past few days I was informed that an historical sketch of early days in southern Oregon, including an account of the Indian wars, would be my part in the programme of exercises.

My knowledge of the subject is not very extensive. I lived in southern Oregon as early as 1852, but was only a boy, not old enough to take part in any of the stirring incidents Which I remember of those days. I see before me faces that recall events long past, and which left pictures in the album of memory that time will never efface, and you will pardon me if I refer to one of those personal recollections.

In 1855 my father, Dr. Wm. L. Colvig, and family lived in a log cabin on the South Umpqua River, near Canyonville. One bright, clear day in October of that year, myself and brother, on returning from a trip in the "cañon," saw standing, in an exhausted condition, a white cayuse pony before the door of our home. The horse was covered with blood. Everything seemed quiet about the place. We rushed into the house and saw a man lying on his back, full length, upon the puncheon floor. His clothing was partially removed. His body was covered with blood. Father was kneeling over him on one side and mother on the other. They were dressing his wounds. He had nine separate bullet holes in his [begin page 228] limbs and body. Doctor Colvig had his case of surgical instruments at hand, which consisted of a butcher knife and a pair of scissors. The knife was the one we had used to cut meat when crossing the plains. Mother was preparing bandages by tearing up some of our old "hickory" shirts. Well, they patched Uncle Bill Russell--called "Long Bill" in those days--up in pretty good shape. I see him here to-day, but I don't think that he is looking for a fight with Indians. At the time of which I speak, he had been shot by the Indians about five miles from my father's house but succeeded in riding to our door. His companion, Weaver, had a close call, but escaped unhurt.

The Indian wars of southern Oregon were stubborn contests. It is a natural law that the fittest survive, and wherever civilization in its advance meets barbarian force, the latter must give way. When they meet there is an "irrepressible conflict," the details of which we can not always reconcile with the Golden Rule. The tribes who took part in these several wars in southern Oregon were the Rogue Rivers, Modocs, Klamaths, Shastas, and Umpquas. The only honest acquisition of the Rogue River Indians was their name. On account of the thieving and treacherous habits of the people of that tribe, the river which flows through the valley was called by the early French trappers "Riviere aux Coquin," the river of rogues. The Oregon legislature in 1853 sought to change the name, and did name it Gold River, but, as the boys say, "it didn't take."

It will be impossible for me to do more than mention a few of the more prominent incidents, and I can not be very accurate in regard to dates and other matters pertaining to that period, as my information has been gathered from many sources, some of which are not very authentic.

It may be of interest to know that on December 27, [begin page 229] 1850, Congress passed what is known as the donation land law, which gave to every American citizen over the age of eighteen years, if single, one half section of land; if married, one section of land, one half of which was the absolute property of the wife, the other half of the husband. There were no settlers in the Rogue River Valley prior to New Year's day, 1851. In the spring of 1851 a man by the name of Evans constructed a ferry across Rogue River, just below the town of Woodville. During the same spring a man by the name of Perkins also established a ferry on that river. The first donation land claim was located by Judge A. A. Skinner, an Indian agent, in June, 1851. This claim is the Walker farm, near Central Point. Upon it he built the first settler's house ever built in the valley. Chesley Gray, his interpreter, also located a donation land claim in June, 1851. It is what is known as the "Constant Farm," near Central Point. The following named persons filed donation land claims prior to February, 1852: Moses Hopwood, on Christmas day, 1851 ; N. C. Dean, at Willow Springs, December, 1851; Stone and Poyntz, at Wagner Creek, December, 1851; L. J. C. Duncan, Major Barron, Thomas Smith, Pat Dunn, E. K. Anderson, and Samuel Culver had made their locations prior to February, 1852. I do not pretend that these were all, but the entire number of claims taken up to that time did not exceed twenty-eight.

In December, 1851, James Clugage and J. R. Poole located the first mining claim in southern Oregon, at a point near the old brewery in Jacksonville. They had been informed by a couple of young men who were passing through the country that they had found gold near that place. Immediately after this discovery became known in California and by the incoming immigrants to Oregon, there was a rush made to the mines of Jacksonville. Old man Shiveley, the discoverer of Shiveley [begin page 230] Gulch, above Jacksonville, inside of eighteen months taken out over $50,000, and since that time, from the best statistics obtainable, the mines of southern Oregon have yielded about $35,000,000 in gold.

During the winter of 1852 flour was sold at $1 per pound, tobacco at $1 an ounce, and salt was priceless. Jacksonville was laid out as a town in the summer or 1852 by Henry Klippel and John R. Poole.

I will now speak of the Indian wars in which the people of southern Oregon were engaged. The first recorded fight between the Indians and whites in any portion of southern Oregon occurred in 1828, when Jedediah S. Smith and seven other trappers were attacked by the Indians on the Umpqua River, and fifteen of the whites were slain, only Smith and three of his companions escaping. The next fight of which we have any account was in June, 1836, at a point just below the Rock Point bridge, where the barn on the W. L. Colvig estate stands. In this fight there were Dan Miller, Edward Barnes, Doctor Bailey, George Gay, Saunders, Woodworth, Irish Tom, and J. Turners and quaw. Two trappers were killed, and nearly all were wounded. Within my recollection, Doctor Bailey visited the scene of this fight, and pointed out to my father its location. In September, 1837, at the mouth of Foots Creek, in Jackson County, a party of men who had been sent to California by the Methodist mission to procure cattle, while on their return were attacked by the Rogue River Indians and had a short, severe fight, in which several of the whites were badly wounded and some twelve or fourteen of the Indians killed. In May, 1845, J. C. Fremont had a fight with the Indians in the Klamath country; it may have been a little over the line in California. Four of Fremont's men were killed and quite a large number of the Indians. Kit Carson was a prominent figure in this battle. [begin page 231]

As before stated, a few bold adventurers had located in Rogue River Valley as early as December, 1851. During the spring, summer, and fall of that year there was a considerable amount of travel through the valley, by parties from northern Oregon going to and returning from the great mining excitement of California. Fights between these travelers and the Indians were of frequent occurrence. On the fifteenth day of May, 1851, a pack train was attacked at a point on Bear Creek, where the town of Phoenix is now situated, and a man by the name of Dilley was killed. On June 3, 1851, a party of Oregonians, under the leadership of Dr. James McBride, had a severe fight near Willow Springs with Chief "Chucklehead" and his band. Chucklehead and six other Indians were killed; several of the whites were severely wounded.

About this time Maj. Phil Kearny, afterwards General Kearny, who was killed at the battle of Chantilly in the Civil war, happened to be passing through the valley on his way from Vancouver to Benicia, California, with a detachment of two companies of United States regulars. He remained a short time and assisted in punishing the Indians for the numerous depredations committed by them during the year. He had several fights while in the valley, in which about fifty Indians were killed. One of these fights was on Rogue River, near the mouth of Butte Creek, where Captain Stuart, of the United States army, received an arrow wound from an Indian, who was also wounded. The arrow penetrated the captain's body, and he died the next day at the camp on Bear Creek, near Phoenix. The camp thenceforth took the name of Camp Stuart, and Bear Creek in all government records is called Stuart's Creek. The captain's body was buried at a spot where the wagon road crosses the mill race in the town of Phoenix. Some years ago his remains were taken up and sent to Washington, D. C., to be buried by [begin page 232] the side of his mother. Captain Stuart's last words were, "Boys, it is awful to have passed through all the battles of the Mexican war, and then be killed by an Indian in this wild country."

At the massacre of emigrants at Bloody Point, Klamath County, in 1852, thirty-six men, women, and children, were murdered. Capt. Ben Wright and twenty-seven men from Yreka and Col. J. E. Ross and some Oregonians went out to punish these Modocs. Old Schonchin, who was afterwards hung at Fort Klamath in 1873, at the close of the Modoc war, was the leader. Wright gave them no quarter. He and his men, infuriated at the sight of the mangled bodies of the. emigrants, killed men, women, and children without any discrimination--about forty in all ; and it is said that they asked for a "peace talk," whereupon a roast ox was prepared. Wright poisoned it, gave it to the Indians, and then rode away. [This story is now generally discredited.--EDITOR.]

I can not give you the names of all who were killed in Rogue River Valley during the years 1851, 1852, mid 1853. I will mention some that were killed in 1853. In August of that year Edward Edwards was killed near Medford; Thomas Wills and Rhodes Nolan, in the edge of the town of Jacksonville; Pat Dunn and Carter, both wounded in a fight on Neil Creek above Ashland. In a fight with the Indians on Bear Creek, in August, 1853, Hugh Smith was killed, and Howell, Morris, Hodgins, Whitmore, and Gibbs wounded, the last named three dying from their wounds soon after.

These murders, and many more that could be mentioned, brought on the Indian war of 1853. Southern Oregon raised six companies of volunteers, who served under the following named captains, viz, R. L. Williams, J. K. Lamerick, John F. Miller, Elias A. Owens, and W. W. Fowler. Capt. B. F. Alden, of the Fourth U. S. [begin page 233] Infantry, with twenty regulars, came over from Fort Jones, California, and with him a large number of volunteers under Capt. James P. Goodall and Capt. Jacob Rhoades, two Indian fighters of experience. Captain Alden was given the command of all the forces. The first battle of the war was fought on the twelfth day of August, 1853, and was an exciting little fight between about twenty volunteers under Lieut. Burrell Griffin, of Miller's company, and a band of Indians under Chief John. The volunteers were ambushed at a point near the mouth of Williams creek, on the Applegate. The whites were defeated with a loss of two killed and Lieutenant Griffin severely wounded. There were five Indians killed and wounded in the battle. On August 10, 1853, John R. Harding and Wm. R. Rose, of Captain Lamerick's company, were killed near Willow Springs. On the sixteenth of August, 1853, Gen. Joseph Lane, afterwards United States senator from Oregon, and a candidate for vice president in 1860, came out from his home in Douglas County and brought fifty men with him, to take part in the war. General Lane was a man of large experience in Indian warfare and in all military matters. He had commanded an Indiana regiment in the Mexican war and enjoyed a well earned reputation for bravery. On the day that General Lane arrived what is known as the battle of Little Meadows was fought. Lieutenant Ely and twenty-two men met the Indians near Evans Creek, in the timber, and a short, but deadly conflict took place. Seven whites were killed inside of an hour; Lieutenant Ely and three men wounded. They left the battlefield in charge of the Indians--at least, in the popular phraseology of that day, "they got up and got out." On August 24, 1853, the battle of Evans Creek was fought. In this fight the Indians did not fare so well, twelve of them being [begin page 234] killed and wounded. One volunteer named Pleasant Armstrong was killed and Captain Alden and Gen. Joe Lane were each wounded. During the summer of 1853 several men were shot by Indians in Josephine County. In the fall General Lane patched up a temporary peace, which lasted till 1855.

The war of 1855-56 was preceded by a great many murders and depredations by the Indians in different parts of southern Oregon. I will mention a few: --. Dyar and --. McKew, killed while on the road from Jacksonville to Josephine County on June 1, 1855. About the same time a man by name of --. Philpot was killed on Deer Creek, Josephine County, and James Mills was wounded at the same time and place. Granville Keene was killed at a point on Bear Creek, above Ashland, and J. Q. Faber was wounded. Two men, --. Fielding and --. Cunningham, were killed in September, 1855, on the road over the Siskiyou mountains.

On account of these various depredations Maj. J. A. Lupton raised a temporary force of volunteers, composed of miners and others, from the vicinity of Jacksonville, about thirty-five in number, and proceeded to a point on the north side of Rogue River, opposite the mouth of Little Butte Creek. There he attacked a camp of Indians at a time when they were not expecting trouble. It is said that about thirty men, women, and children were killed by Lupton's men. The major himself received a mortal wound in the fight. This fight has been much,criticised by the people of southern Oregon, a great many of them believing that it was unjustifiable and cowardly. Two days after this affair a series of massacres took place in the sparsely settled country in and about where Grants Pass is now situated. On the ninth day of October, 1856, the Indians, having divided up into small parties, simultaneously attacked the homes of the defenseless families [begin page 235] located in that vicinity. I will name a few of those tragic events. On the farm now owned by James Tuffs, Mr. Jones was killed, and his wife, after receiving a mortal wound, made her escape. She was found by the volunteers on the next day and died a few days afterwards. Their house was burned down. Mrs. Wagner was murdered by the Indians on the same day. Her husband was away from home at the time, but returned on the following day to find his wife murdered and his home a pile of ashes. The Harris family consisted of Harris and wife and their two children, Mary Harris, aged twelve, and David Harris, aged ten, and T. A. Reed, a young man who lived with the family. Mr. Harris was shot down while standing near his door, and at a moment when he little suspected treachery from the Indians with whom he was talking. His wife and daughter pulled his body within the door, and seizing a double-barreled shotgun and an old-fashioned Kentucky rifle, commenced firing through the cracks of the log cabin. They kept this up till late in the night, and by heroic bravery kept the Indians from either gaining an entrance into the house or succeeding in their attempts to fire it. Just back of the cabin was a dense thicket of brush, and during a lull in the attack the two brave women escaped through the back door and fled through the woods. They were found the next day by volunteers from Jacksonville, our late friend, Henry Klippel, being one of the number. Mrs. Harris lived to a good old age in this county. Mary, who was wounded in the fight, afterwards became the wife of Mr. G. M. Love, and was the mother of George Love of Jacksonville and Mrs. John A. Hanley of Medford. David Harris, the boy, was not in the house when the attack was made, but was at work on the place. His fate has never been ascertained, as his body was never found. The Indians stated, after peace was made, that [begin page 236] they killed him at the time they attacked the Harris house. Reed, the young man spoken of, was killed out near the house.

On October 31, 1855, the battle of Hungry Hill was fought near the present railway-station of Leland. Capt. A. J. Smith of the United States army was at that battle, and a large number of citizens soldiery. The result of the battle was very undecisive. There were thirty-one whites killed and wounded, nine of them being killed out-right. It is not known how many of the Indians were killed, but after the treaty was made they confessed to fifteen. The Indians were in heavy timber and were scarcely seen during the two days' battle.

In April, 1856, after peace had been concluded between the whites and Indians, the Ledford massacre took place in Rancherie Prairie, near Mount Pitt, in this county, in which five white men were killed. This event was the last of the "irrepressible conflict." Soon afterward the Indians were removed to the Siletz reservation, where their descendants now live and enjoy the favors of the government which their fathers so strongly resisted.

The war in Rogue River Valley had now virtually ended.

Old Sam's" band, with an escort of one hundred United States troops, was taken to the coast reservation at Siletz. Chiefs "John" and "Limpy," with a large number of the most active warriors, who had followed their fortunes during all these struggles, still held out and continued their depredations in the lower Rogue River country and in connection with the Indians of Curry County.

Gen. John E. Wool, commander of the department of the Pacific, in November, 1855, had stopped at Crescent City while on his way to the Yakima country. He received full information while here of the military operations in southern Oregon. Skipping many details, it is sufficient to state that he ordered Capt. A. J. Smith to [begin page 237] move down the river from Fort Lane and form a junction with the United States troops under Captains Jones and E. O. C. Ord (afterward a major-general in United States army), who were prosecuting an active campaign in the region about Chetco, Pistol River, and the Illinois River Valley. Captain Smith left Fort Lane with eighty men--fifty dragoons and thirty infantry. I can only take the time to mention a few of the fights in that region during the spring of 1856. On March 8th Captain Abbott had a skirmish with the Chetco Indians at Pistol River. He lost several men. The Indians had his small force completely surrounded when Captain Ord and Captain Jones with one hundred and twelve regular troops came to his relief. They charged and drove the Indians away with heavy loss. On March 20, 1855, Lieutenant-Colonel Buchanan, assisted by Captains Jones and Ord, attacked an Indian village ten miles above the mouth of Rogue River. The Indians were driven away, leaving several dead and only one white man wounded in the fight. A few days later Captain Angne's [Augur?] company (United States troops) fought John and "Limpy's" band at the mouth of the Illinois River. The Indians fought desperately, leaving five dead on the battlefield. On March 27, 1855, the regulars again met the Indians on Lower Rogue River. After a brisk fight at close quarters the Indians fled, leaving ten dead and two of the soldiers were severely wounded. On April 1, 1855, Captain Creighton, with a company of citizens, attacked an Indian village near the mouth of the Coquille River, killing nine men, wounding eleven and taking forty squaws and children prisoners. About this time some volunteers attacked a party of Indians who were moving in canoes at the mouth of Rogue River. They killed eleven men and one squaw. Only one man and two squaws of the party escaped. On April 29, 1855, a party [begin page 238] of sixty regulars escorting a pack train were attacked near Chetco. In this fight three soldiers were killed and wounded. The Indians lost six killed and several wounded.

The volunteer forces of the coast war were three companies known by the names of "Gold Beach Guards," the "Coquille Guards," and the "Port Orford Minute Men." I have not the time to enter into the details of the battle that was fought on the twenty-seventh of May, 1855, near Big Meadows, on Rogue River. Captain Smith was in command of his eighty regulars. Old "John" lead the Indians. The operations covered a period of two days, Jobn using all the tactics of military science in handling his four hundred braves during the battle. Just as every thing was ready, according to "John's" plans for an attack upon the regulars, Captain Angne's [Augur?] company was seen approaching. The Indians were then soon dispersed. Captain Smith lost twenty-nine men killed and wounded in this battle, and had it not been for the timely arrival of Angne's [Augur?] company, his men would all have been killed.

While these operations were being carried on by the United States troops, the volunteer forces were not idle. They were kept busy with "Limpy" and "George's" warriors, at points in Josephine County. On January 28, 1856, Major Latshaw moved down the river with two hundred and thirteen men. He had several skirmishes and lost four or five men in killed and wounded. On May 29th "Limpy" and "George" surrendered at Big Meadows to Lieutenant-Colonel Buchanan. On May 31st Governor Curry ordered the volunteer forces to disband--nearly all the Indians had surrendered. About one thousand three hundred of the various tribes that had carried on the war were gathered in camp at Port Orford. [begin page 239]

About July 1, 1856, "John" and thirty-five tough looking warriors, the last to surrender, "threw down the hatchet." I have now gone over, in chronological order, the principal events connected with the Indian wars of southern Oregon. I am fully aware that the narrative is very defective, and that many events of importance have not even been mentioned. You who took part in these early struggles can easily fill in the gaps, and correct the errors that I may have unconsciously made.

There were some men who took part in the Indian wars of southern Oregon who afterward became prominent in the history of the Nation. I will name a few, viz, Gen. U. S. Grant, Gen. J. B. Hood (late of Confederate army), Gen. Phil Kearny, Gen. Wool, Gen. A. J. Smith, Gen. Geo. Crooks, Gen. A. V. Kautz, Gen. Phil Sheridan, Gen. J. C. Fremont, Gen. Joe Lane (candidate for vice president of the United States in 1860), Gen. Joe Hooker (who built the military road in the Canyon Mountains in 1852), and Kit Carson.

We all rejoice that the general government has at last acknowledged the value of your services to civilization; and has made some provision of recompense for the privations which you suffered.

I see before me old gray headed mothers who will also share with you this recognition of the Nation's gratitude. It is well, and to my comrades of the Civil war, who are here, and who have been the promotors of this reunion of veterans, let me say that no women of any war, in which the American people have ever been engaged, are more deserving of the Nation's bounty than these old, feeble, pioneer mothers of southern Oregon. When their fathers, brothers, and husbands went out to meet their savage foes, these women were not left in well protected cities, villages, and homes, but often in rude cabins, situated in [begin page 240] close proximity to the conflict; and unlike the chances of civilized warfare, no mercy could be expected from the enemy--surrender meant not only death, but torture and heartless cruelty. In every hour of those dark days these women proved themselves to be fit helpmates to a race of daring men--and worthy all honors that are accorded the brave.

[ Oregon Historical Society Quarterly, IV, No.3. 1903, pp. 227-240. ]