Chapter XXII.


Coming of the Whites--General Wane and the Shastas--Divisions of the Shastas--Their Chiefs--Rogue River Indians--Applegate John--Limpy, George and their Bands--Table Rock Band--Sam and Joe--Census of Indians--Diminution of the Indians--Reflection on their Condition--Sentiment of the Whites--Discussion on the Causes of the Wars.

The events narrated in the last chapter mainly occurred prior to the settlement of Southern Oregon, which we may conveniently date from the spring of 1851. We now come to consider occurrences which took place during the following years, when the country was being rapidly peopled, in consequence partly of the discovery of gold, placers in the Rogue river country, and where a state of feverish excitement existed, consequent upon the rapid growth of population and other serious causes. It was in the spring of 1851 that these gold discoveries took place whose repeated occurrence attracted thousands to these valleys. The news of the first "find" drew other prospectors who, advancing into the previously untrodden wilds, speedily found other rich deposits, and so within a few short months it was learned that the precious metal existed on the banks of innumerable streams draining extensive regions. At the same time numerous discoveries were being made in Northern California, and a constant succession of travelers passed north and south on the way to the Sacramento and Shasta valleys, or homeward to the Willamette with a filled purse, or perhaps with defeated hopes and an empty pocket. The mines about Yreka were being worked, and a busy swarm of men, estimated by some at above 2,000, were digging for gold. Adventurous prospectors had spread themselves over a vast region, and toward every point of the compass. All the affluents of the Sacramento, Shasta, Trinity, Scott, Pit, Rogue and Umpqua were infested by busy men with pick and pan, and the auriferous wealth of the country speedily became known. In June of 1850, Dollarhide and party discovered the Scott river placers, but abandoned them from fear of the Indians and from other causes. Soon after came Scott and party who made additional discoveries, the news of which was speedily circulated, bringing many miners to the spot. General Joseph Lane arrived on the headwaters of the river in February, 1851, and set about gold digging in company with his own party of Oregonians. By the tacit consent of whites and natives alike (but as some have said by the intercession of [end page 189] Chief Tolo) the general became a sort of mediator in their differences; and kept both parties in harmony throughout his stay on the river. The Indians of that vicinity, belonging to the Shasta tribe, were very numerous, but were divided into several bands. They occupied Shasta and Scott valleys, and the banks of the Klamath river adjacent. They had been separated from the Rogue Rivers only recently, owing to the death of their principal chief. There is no doubt that these two tribes were one and undivided previously, but now they were broken up and formed several communities, each with its own chief. At Yreka old Tolo was chief, an always firm friend and ally of the whites; in Scott valley Tyee John, a son of the deceased head chief, was supreme; in Shasta valley, Tyee Jim; on the Klamath, Tyee Bill; on the Siskiyou mountains and about the head of the Applegate, Tipsu (commonly called Tipsie) Tyee (bearded or hairy chief). On Rogue river were gathered the Indians who bore that name, numbering, according to the best evidence, about 600 souls. They were broken up into tribal communities of greater or less importance, and, as before remarked, all owed a quasi allegiance to Joe and Sam, chiefs of the Table Rock band, the main division of the tribe. On Applegate creek dwelt Chief John, a redoubtable warrior who properly fills more space in history than any other Oregon Indian, excepting, perliaps, Kam-ai-a-kun, the celebrated warrior of the Yakimas, and Peo-peo-mux-mux, the great chief of the Walla Wallas. John's clan, the Ech-ka-taw-a, was numerically small; not more than fifty braves followed him to war, but these, under such a leader, more than made up for lack of numbers, by courage, strategy, and indomitable perseverance. We shall have much to say of this wily and sagacious chief, when treating of the events of the war of 1855-56. Another prominent Indian was Limpy,--so called by the whites--who was of the Haw-quo-e-hav-took, a rather more numerous band, dwelling in the region drained by the Illinois river. His character was well known to the Whites, by reason of his taking part in hostilities against them on all possible occasions. The acts of Limpy and John have become in a great measure confounded in most people's recollections, and to the Illinois Indians are attributed many acts and exploits of which the blame or credit should be given to the Applegate band. George, another and less prominent sub-chief, dwelt upon the Rogue river below Vannoy's ferry. His people united on occasion with those of Limpy, and together made up an active and dangerous force.

In the vicinity of Table Rock dwelt the sub-tribe of Indians previously alluded to as the band of Sam and Joe, which will be further referred to under the name of the Table Rock band. Their home was upon the banks of the Rogue river, and in the midst of a pleasant country, fruitful in game, roots, seeds and acorns, while in the river, at the proper season, salmon swarmed by the thousand. They derived in easy and abundant living from the advantageous surroundings and were the dominant band of the tribe. Their number probably reached at one time 500 souls; but in addition quite a number of Indians of other tribes were settled within the valley and through some consideration of Indian polity, gave their adhesion to the Table Rock chiefs and were in effect a part of their people. This band was ever regarded with jealousy by the whites until their removal to a distant reservation in 1856; but with little cause, as will be shown in the following pages. We shall have occasion to set forth the comparative superiority of this particular band and of their chiefs in matters of civility, [end page 190] good faith, and regard for their engagements. The people of Jackson county still have lively memories of many of these Indians, particularly of the two chiefs. They tell that the twain were tall and stately men, Sam somewhat portly, the other of a more slender build, but alike in having massive heads and relatively intellectual foreheads. In the late years of their stay at Table Rock they dressed in "Boston" style, wearing tall hats, etc. Their manners were said not to be inferior to those of the ordinary miner or farmer. These comparatively intelligent and teachable Indians wielded a giant influence among the surrounding tribes at a time when the utmost revengeful feelings had been excited against the whites. The Indian name of Joe was Aps-er-ka-ha, as is discovered on perusing the text of the Table Rock treaty of 1853, and from the same source we learn that Sam's name was To-gun-he-a; and a less important chief named by the whites Jim, was in Too-too-tenni (the Rogue River language) called Ana-cha-ara. As the before-mentioned chiefs were the most prominent actors on the part of the Indians in the ensuing wars, further mention of them is deferred to its appropriate place.

In 1854 a census was taken of the entire inhabitants of the upper portion of Rogue river valley, from which the following figures are extracted. The Indians were in this enumeration divided into two classes--those who accepted the provisions of the Lane treaty of 1853, and the outside or nonreservation Indians. Of the former the Table Rock band numbered seventy-six persons; John's band, fifty-three; the combined people of George and Limpy, eighty-one; making a total of 307 Indians of both sexes and all ages, gathered upon the reservation at Table Rock. Of these, 108 were men. The non-treaty Indians comprised Elijah's band of ninety-four; the "Old Applegates" (probably Tepsu Tyee's people), numbering thirty-nine; Taylor's band and the Indians of Jump-off-Joe creek, sixty strong; and forty-seven remaining on the Illinois river; total, 240; of whom seventy-two were men. Thus the total Indian population of the upper portion of the Rogue river country was 547--a number that will seem disproportionately small to those who are in any degree familiar with the history of their actions. To this estimate Agent Culver added twenty-five per cent, as representing the number of alien or foreign Indians who might be found at any time with or near the bands named. There is reason to believe that the stranger Indians at times exceeded this large estimate, especially in time of hostilities.

The best evidence exists to show that the Indian population of the valley suffered very serious diminution between the years 1854 and 1855. What the extent of this decrease was, or how long its causes had been in operation is not ascertainable. It is a very common expression with the earlier white settlers that the Indians were much more numerous at first. Agent Culver remarked that the loss to the "treaty Indians" collected at Table Rock reservation, amounted during the first twelve months to not less than one-fourth of their whole number. Among the several strong bands of Indians resident in the Grave creek, Wolf creek and Jump-off-Joe region, the mortality was still greater; and those intractable bands, dangerous enemies of the whites (they spoke the Umpqua language but were not of that blood), were nearly blotted out of existence.

This theory of the diminution of the Indians will help to explain the apparently monstrous exaggerations of those who first battled with the Rogue Rivers--an [end page 191] exaggeration inexplicable on any other hypothesis. Thus, Major Kearney, writing to his superior officers concerning an engagement, professes to have been opposed by from 300 to 500 Indians. Many such statements might be adduced, which with the above theory are mutually supporting, though they do not rest on the same class of evidence by any means.

The position in which these Indians found themselves at the era of the rapid influx of white men was anomalous. They were suddenly surrounded by a white population largely exceeding their own numbers, engaged in the pursuit of gold. Nor was this white population of a character to enable the Indians to remain in quiet. Ordinary observation speaks loudly to the contrary. Says J. Ross Browne, "The earliest comers were a wild, reckless and daring race of men, trappers and hunters, whose intercourse with the Indians was not calculated to afford them a high opinion of Americans as a people." These remarks were intended to apply to the travelers who came prior to the discovery of gold. With a slight modification they will apply perfectly to a very large number of subsequent arrivals. Concerning the character of the general white population in 1851-6, nothing need be said. Men of all ranks in life and of all conceivable characters, were there. There is no occasion to go into raptures over the generosity, magnanimity and bravery of the better sort, nor to enter upon a long description of the vices of the worse. Good men were there and bad. The same vicious qualities which characterized the ruffian in more settled communities marked his career in this, except that circumstances may have given him a better chance here to display himself. "A majority of white persons came to the country with kind feelings for the Indians and not wishing to injure them; but there also came many having opposite sentiments." This sentence sets forth the condition of affairs as forcibly as if it were expanded into a volume. A portion were ready to do the Indian harm, and circumstances never could have been more favorable to their malice. Law and justice were not; and whenever and wherever a white man's lust or love of violence led him then and there an outrage was perpetrated. Public sentiment to-day admits the truth of the strongest general charges of this nature; and the venerable pioneer tottering perhaps on the edge of the grave says sadly--"The Indians suffered many a grievous wrong at our hands; unmentionable wrongs, they were, of which no man shall ever bear more." Because these Indians were poor, because they were ignorant, and because they were aliens, society frowned on them, justice ignored them, the United States government neglected to protect them and they were left a prey to the worst passions of the worst of men. To again quote, "Miscreants, regardless of sex or age, slaughter poor, weak, defenceless Indians with impunity. There are no means for agents to prevent it or punish it. There are many well-disposed persons, but they are silent through fear or some other cause," etc. These are the words of Joel Palmer, superintendent of Indian affairs for Oregon. In continuation of the subject, J. L. Parrish, Indian agent. at Port Orford, said: "Many of the Indians have been killed merely on suspicion that they would rise and avenge their own wrongs, or for petty threats that have been made against lawless white men for debauching their women; and I believe in no single instance have the Indians been aggressors." The Oregon Statesman, of September 27, 1853, contained this language, which is all the more striking as being published at a time when to utter a word in favor of the Indians was to court [end page 192] unpopularity: "Some of the whites are reckless and imprudent men, who expected passive submission from the natives under any treatment, while the latter have never had any correct idea of the policy of our government in relation to their race, and consequently regard all whites as lawless intruders endeavoring to despoil them."

It is useless to multiply incidents and quotations with the single view of showing the immediate cause of the Indian wars. Those who wish to investigate more fully the subject of outrages by whites on Indians will do well to consult the various governmental reports of the superintendent of Indian affairs, and other like publications; but let it be taken for granted at once that the newspapers will afford no evidence of the kind sought. Nor should the evidence of the regular army or other government officers be accepted as conclusive. There is as much of prejudice and downright untruthfulness in certain official reports on the conduct of the Indian wars of Southern Oregon as could well be found in any newspaper. We behold, at the close of the final hostilities with the Indians (war of 1855-6), the inglorious spectacle of a renowned general engaged in a wordy and abusively personal contest with certain civilians, respecting the comparative merit of the regulars and the volunteers in bringing the war to a close. This unseemly quarrel between General Wool and the citizens of Oregon and Washington territories hinged upon the very least of all the results of those memorable months of fighting, yet these wordy hostilities continued throughout many years, and their echoes are hardly yet died away. To burden history with grave discussions of such matters is not at all the intention of the present writer; and those who would inform themselves upon the subject matter of the Wool-Curry-Stevens dispute, should seek it in the files of the newspapers of the date of 1856 and subsequently.

To subserve some hidden political or pecuniary purpose, the legislature of Oregon once procured the publication of a list of persons murdered by Indians prior to 1858. That this list was inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable, did not affect the purpose of its publication. It probably assisted in carrying the measure as intended, and thus far was of use. But that publication has done more to create unjust and erroneous impressions regarding the Indian wars than aught else. All the newspaper pathos concerning the blood of our slaughtered friends, all the speeches of demagogues trying to make political capital by playing upon men's vanity, never could have appealed to the feelings as does that simple list, containing, without circumstance, the names of perhaps 200 persons killed within the boundaries of Oregon. It is a pity that for purposes of comparison we have not a similar list giving the names of Indians who, have been murdered by white men. The total would be at least convincing.

Returning to our subject of the immediate causes of the wars, we find ourselves under the necessity of quoting from the words of General Sam Houston: "The outbreaks of Indians are always preceded by greater outrages on the part of the whites." There was a very peculiar yet probably common class of outrages inflicted on the Indians that seem more particularly to illustrate the words of the venerable speaker. These outrages were upon women; and although we cannot suppose that the savage heart was capable of feeling all the severe emotions which under such circumstances would agitate the breast of a white man so wronged in the person of his wife, still there is no reason to doubt the gravity of such a matter to them. It may well be taken for granted that such outrages were of not uncommon occurrence. The debauchery of [end page 193] the Indian women was an accompanying circumstance, and doubtless the two nearly identical facts had an important bearing on the relation of the races.

The scheme upon which the writer will endeavor to arrange the evidence bearing on this topic divides such evidence into--first, that bearing upon the tone of public sentiment during the years of hostilities; second, the remarkable change in public opinion during the subsequent years; third, the opinions of intelligent and reliable living actors in the wars; fourth, contemporary evidence contained in newspapers, manuscripts, etc.; fifth, the unjust terrorism of opponents of the war. The ordinary, or what may be termed the patriotic, view of the cause, remote and immediate, of the, war, rests upon opinion only, and presents no stronger grounds than--first, the public consension of opinion of the Indian character; second, traditions concerning the facts of the war; and third, one-sided newspaper reports.

Having suggested the most important immediate causes of the war, let us imagine that these causes have produced their inevitable effects, and that open hostilities exist. In such a case it is manifest that the ignoble causes would sink from sight, while public attention would become engrossed by the more important actual condition of affairs; and practical measures rather than theoretical speculation would be the order of tile day. The varying feelings of all white inhabitants would become merged in a desire to speedily conquer, and possibly to exterminate their enemies. These would be the inevitable results, and we might expect those who previously had been the most conservative and sympathetic to manifest the greatest vigor and enthusiasm on attacking the savages. The population then, we have abundant reason for saying, would become unanimous upon the breaking out of an Indian war. There would have existed a constant though indefinite dread of Indian retaliation among nearly all classes, and this feeling would have assumed a more serious import to men of family and to those who inhabited exposed places. By degrees this wearing annoyance would have become intensified, and the habit of expecting evil would have become, in the less steadfast minds, actually insupportable. The feeling then, we are assured, would have merged into one of deadly hostility towards Indians in general. It is difficult for us, in the calmness of every-day life, to conceive the feverish intensity of excitement to which man may be wrought, when the animal energies of his nature converge to a point, and the buoyancy of strength and courage reciprocates the influences of anxiety and solicitude. We shall see the bearing of these remarks in treating of the beginning of the war of 1855-6, where they apply with distinguished force to the noted Lupton case. Thus we may believe it was less the actual Indian outrages that inspired the whites to violence than the soul-harrowing expectation of them. In corroboration of these views we find S. H. Culver, Indian agent at Table Rock, expressing himself as follows: "The feeling of hostility displayed by both parties would be almost impossible to realize except by personal observation. Worthy men of standing entertained sentiments of bitter hostility entirely at variance with their general disposition."

The consideration of the causes of an Indian war divides itself naturally, as has been inferred, into two parts, namely: The immediate cause or causes, and the remote cause. Of the two, the latter is, from its generality, incomparably the more interesting and important, but its discussion leads ultimately to a train of philosophical speculations not in consonance with ordinary conceptions of history, and of interest to a very [end page 194] slight proportion of readers. The student of American history, casting his eyes upon the records of settlement of this land, observes the multifarious accounts of Indian wars, and remarking their similarity in cause and effect, instinctively assigns them to a single primary cause, sufficiently comprehensive and effective to have produced them. It would be unphilosophical to ascribe the cause of these innumerable yet similar wars to the isolated acts of individuals, although we may credit the latter with their immediate production. The primary cause, says one, is the progress of civilization, to which the Indians are normally opposed. As otherwise stated, the cause is the result of immigration and settlement, which are also in opposition to the wish of the Indians. Another authority states it thus: "The encroachments of a superior upon an inferior race." These three propositions appear to set forth three different consequences of a universal truth, but by no means the primary truth itself. Probably the fundamental reason could be found in race differences, or still more likely in some psychological principle akin to that by which men are led to inflict death by preference upon the wilder animals, manifesting less hostility as species prove more tameable. Races are antagonized th[r]ough mere facial differences; and probably the principle, however it should be stated, enters into the actions and prejudices of even the most civilized and tolerant nations to an unsuspected extent.

Finally, if we sum up the opinions brought out by close study of all the phases of the question as to the origin of the war, it seems an unavoidable result of the analogy of, the various Indian wars, that hostilities in Southern Oregon were unavoidable under any circumstances attainable at the time, inasmuch as there existed no Quaker colony headed by a William Penn, to peacefully and wisely uphold law and order. Second, the immediate causes of the wars were due to the bad conduct of both parties, but were chiefly caused by the injudicious and unjust acts of reckless or lawless and treacherous white men. After a careful examination of the following pages, the unprejudiced reader will probably acknowledge that these conclusions are stated in singularly moderate and dispassionate language. [end page 195]

Walling, A. G. History of Southern Orgeon, Comprising Jackson, Josephine, Douglas, Curry and Coos Counties: Compiled from the Most Authentic Sources. Portland, Oregon. 1884, pp. 189-195.