Reminiscences of a Pioneer by Colonel William Thompson

Produced by David A. Schwan Reminiscences of a Pioneer By Colonel William Thompson Editor Alturas, Cal., Plaindealer San Francisco 1912 Contents Chapter I Farewell to the Old Southern Home II First Winter in the Willamette Valley III Indian Outbreak of 1855 IV In Which Various Experiences Are Discussed V Taking Revenge on Marauding Snakes VI
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  • 1912
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Produced by David A. Schwan

Reminiscences of a Pioneer

By Colonel William Thompson

Editor Alturas, Cal., Plaindealer

San Francisco 1912


I Farewell to the Old Southern Home II First Winter in the Willamette Valley III Indian Outbreak of 1855
IV In Which Various Experiences Are Discussed V Taking Revenge on Marauding Snakes
VI One Bad Tale From Canyon City History VII Col. Thompson’s First Newspaper Venture VIII History of the Modoc Indians
IX The Ben Wright Massacre
X Treaty With the Modocs Made
XI Battle in the Lava Beds
XII The Peace Commission’s Work
XIII Three Days Battle In the Lava Beds XIV Trailing the Fugitives
XV The Great Bannock War
XVI Snake Uprising in Eastern Oregon XVII Bannocks Double on Their Tracks
XVIII Another Attack That Miscarried XIX Reign of the Vigilantes
XX Passing of the Mogans
XXI The Lookout Lynching


Colonel William Thompson Frontispiece (From photo taken at close of Bannock War) Typical Scene in the Lava Beds
Runway and Fort in Lava Beds
Captain Jack’s Cave in the Lava Beds Captain Jack
(From photo belonging to Jas. D. Fairchild, Yreka, Cal.) Colonel William Thompson
(From photo taken at close of Modoc War)


So rapidly is the Far West changing character, our pioneers should feel in duty bound to preserve all they can of its early history. Many of them are giving relics of frontier days to museums and historical societies. And they do well. Yet such collections are unfortunately accessible to only the few. Hence they do better who preserve the living narratives of their times. For however unpretentious from the cold aspect of literary art, these narratives breathe of courage and fortitude amid hardships and perils, and tell as nothing else can of the hopes and dreams of the hardy pathfinders, and of the compensations and pleasures found in their sacrifices.

It is with this end in view, to preserve the life of the old days in its many colors, that these recollections are penned. There was more to this life than has been touched by the parlor romancers or makers of moving-picture films. Perhaps some day these memories may serve to illumine the historian delving in the human records of the past. And perhaps, also, and this is the author’s dearest wish, they may inspire young readers to hold to the hardy traditions of the ‘Fifties and to keep this spirit alive in a country destined soon to be densely peopled with newcomers from the long-settled parts of the world.

Reminiscences of a Pioneer

Chapter I.

Farewell to the Old Southern Home.

I have often wondered, when viewing a modern passenger coach, with its palace cars, its sleeping and dining cars, if those who cross the “Great American Desert,” from the Mississippi to the Pacific in four days, realize the hardships, dangers and privations of the Argonauts of fifty-eight years ago. The “Plains” were then an unbroken wilderness of three thousand miles, inhabited by hordes of wild Indians, and not too friendly to the white man journeying through his country.

The trip then required careful preparation–oxen, wagons, provisions, arms and ammunition must be first of all provided. These were essentials, and woe to the hapless immigrant who neglected these provisions. To be stranded a thousand miles from the “settlements” was a fate none but the most improvident and reckless cared to hazard.

It is to recount some of the trials, adventures, hardships, privations, as I remember them, that these lines are written. For truly, the immigrants of the early 50’s were the true “Conquerors of the Wilderness.” Cutting loose from home and civilization, their all, including their women and children, loaded into wagons, and drawn by slow-moving ox teams, they fearlessly braved three thousand miles of almost trackless wilderness.

As a small boy I remember the first mention of California, the land of gold. My father returned from New Orleans in January. On board the steamer coming up the Mississippi river, he had fallen in with some gentlemen “returning to the States.” They had given him a glowing description of the “land of gold,” and almost the first words spoken after the family greetings were over was, “We are going to California in the spring.” My mother was more than agreeable and from that time nothing was talked or thought of but the journey to California. The old refrain was sung from morning to night,

“In the spring we ‘re going to journey, Far away to California.”

My chum, Tant, a negro boy of my own age, and I seriously discussed the prospects and dangers of the journey. Direful tales of the tomahawk and scalping knife were recounted by the older children. But Tant’s fears were allayed by the assurance that the “Injuns” would not kill and scalp a black boy with a woolly head. For once in my life I envied that imp of darkness.

In February a gentleman came to our home and after dinner he and my father rode over the plantation. The next morning they rode over to Bolliver, the county seat. Returning in the evening my father announced that the plantation was sold. Then began the real preparations for the journey. My father was constantly in the saddle. Oxen, wagons, ox yokes, ox bows, cattle, covers for wagons, arms, ammunition and provisions were purchased and brought to the plantation. All was hurry and excitement. Two shoemakers came to our home to make up the leather purchased at St. Louis or from neighboring tanneries. Meantime Aunt Ann and the older girls of the family were busy spinning and weaving. Every article of wearing apparel must be made at home. “Store clothes” were out of the question in those days. Wool must be carded and spun into thread for. Aunt Ann’s old wooden loom. The cloth was then fashioned into garments for clothing to last a year after we should reach our goal far out on the Pacific shores. The clank of the old wooden loom was almost ceaseless. Merrily the shuttle sang to an accompaniment of a camp meeting melody. Neighbors also kindly volunteered their services in weaving and fashioning garments for the family. All was bustle and hurry.

At last all was in readiness for the start. Spring with all its beauty and glory was with us, and friends from the country round and about had come to bid us a final farewell–friends, alas, we were destined never to meet again. The parting I remember as the first real sorrow of a life that has experienced most of the hardships, dangers, privations and sufferings of a wild frontier life. It was a beautiful morning early in April, 1852, that the leaders were pointed to the west and a start was made. Four wagons were drawn by five yoke of oxen each, while the fifth, the family wagon, was drawn by three yoke.

The first weeks of our journey were passed without anything happening worthy of note. At Caw river we were detained several days by high water. Here we began falling in with others, who, like, ourselves, were bound for the golden shores of the Pacific. And it was here that we made the acquaintance of families, and friendships formed that were to survive not only the privations of the plains but were to last a life time. Men were drawn together on the plains as in the everyday walks of life, only the bonds were closer and far more enduring. The very dangers through which they passed together rendered the ties more lasting. “Our train” henceforth consisted of my father’s, Littleton Younger, John Gant, “Uncle” Johnny Thompson and a party of five Welsh gentlemen, under the leadership of a gentleman named Fathergill, and a prince of a gentleman he was. At that time there was not a cabin in what is now the great and populous State of Kansas. Only vast undulating plains, waving with grass, traversed here and there with timberskirted streams. Game was abundant, consisting mostly of antelope and prairie chickens. Our Welsh friends, being bachelors and having no loose stock, were the hunters for the train, and supplied us with an abundance of fresh meat.

As we proceeded westward more immigrants were met, and often our camp resembled a tented city. All was then a pleasure trip–a picnic, as it were. No sooner was camp struck than a place was cleared and dancing began to the sound of the violin. Many of these young ladies were well dressed–actually wore “store clothes!” But alas, and alack, I was destined to see these same young ladies who started out so gay and care-free, in tattered dresses, barefooted and dusty, walking and driving the loose cattle. Too many excursions and pleasure jaunts had reduced their horses to skeletons before the real trials of the journey had fairly begun. But the women of ’52 and ’53 were not of the namby-pamby sort. When the trials came they were brave and faced privations and dangers with the same fortitude as their stronger brothers.

At Fort Laramie we crossed the Platte river by fording. The stream, as I remember it, was near a mile wide, but not waist deep. Thirty and forty oxen were hitched to one wagon, to effect the crossing. But woe to the hapless team that stalled in the treacherous quicksands. They must be kept going, as it required but a short stop for the treacherous sands to engulf team and wagon alike. Men wading on either side of the string of oxen kept them moving, and soon all were safely on the north side of the Platte river.

We soon began to see great herds of buffalo. In fact, at times the hills were black with the heaving, rolling, bellowing mass, and no meal was served for many days without fresh buffalo. As we wended our way up the valley of the Platte one could look back for miles and miles on a line of wagons, the sinuous line with vari-colored wagon covers resembling a great serpent crawling and wriggling up the valley. Fortunately for “our train” we were well in advance and thus escaped the sickness that later dotted the valley of the Platte with graves.

On and on. Independence Rock, Sweet Water, and Devil’s Gate were passed. Members of our train had observed two men who traveled with us, yet held themselves aloof. They appeared to prefer their own company, and while they traveled along with us, probably for protection, they always camped by themselves. Some said they were Mormons, while others asserted they were merely a selfish pair. One day one of the men was missing. The other on being questioned gave evasive and very unsatisfactory replies. His actions excited the suspicions of our men. He appeared anxious to get ahead and left us, making a long night drive. It was then determined to make an investigation. Two of our party mounted good horses and started back on the trail. Each camp was carefully examined until they were rewarded by finding the body of a murdered man beneath the ashes of a camp fire, buried in a shallow grave. By riding all night they overtook the train, before starting back burying the body of the unfortunate traveler. The news spread rapidly and a party followed the murderer. He was soon overtaken and halted at the muzzles of rifles. When the train came up a council was held. Probably a hundred wagons were halted. It was determined to give the man a trial. The evidence was conclusive, and after conviction the miserable wretch confessed all, but begged for mercy. He said the murdered man had picked him up out of pity and was taking him through for his company and his help. There being no trees, three wagons were run together, the wagon tongues being raised to form a tripod and to answer for a gallows. To the center of the tripod a rope was attached with the other end around the neck of the trembling, writhing, begging wretch. But he had committed a cruel, cold-blooded murder and his crime could not be condoned. He was stood on the back of a horse, and a sharp cut being given the animal the wretch was swung into eternity. A grave had been dug and into this the body of the murderer was placed. The property of the murdered man was taken through to the settlements. His relatives were communicated with, the property sold and the proceeds sent to the proper owners. Such was the swift but terrible justice administered on the plains. Without law or officers of the law, there was no other course to pursue consistent with safety to the living.

July 4th, 1852, we reached Green river. Traders had established six ferry boats at the crossing. In order to keep down competition, five of the boats were tied up and the sum of $18 was demanded for each and every wagon ferried over the stream. They had formed a kind of “trust,” as it were, even in that day. The rate was pronounced exorbitant, unfair, outrageous, and beyond the ability of many to pay. Train after train had been blocked until a city of tents had been formed. On the morning of the 4th a meeting of immigrants was called to discuss the situation. A few counseled moderation, compromise, anything to prevent a clash with the traders, who boasted that they could turn the Indians loose on us. The great majority defied both traders and Indians and boldly announced that they would fight before they would submit to being robbed. Many fiery speeches were made, and about 10 o’clock a long line of men, with shouldered rifles flashing in the sun, marched down and took possession of the ferry boats. The traders fumed and threatened, and Indians with war-whoops and yells mounted horses and rode off from the opposite side. The traders said they were going after the tribe to exterminate the entire train. They were plainly told that the first shot fired by traders or Indians would sound their own death knell–that they, the traders, would be shot down without mercy.

The ferry boats were then seized and the work of crossing the river began. As fast as the wagons were crossed over they were driven down the river, one behind another, forming a corral, with the open side facing the river in the form of a half wheel. When the wagons had all been crossed, the loose stock was swum over into the opening. There was no confusion, but everything proceeded with almost military precision. A committee had been appointed to keep tally on the number of wagons crossed on the boats. The traders were then paid $4 for each and every wagon. Still they fumed and threatened. The faces of the more timid blanched and a few women were in tears. I beheld the whole proceedings with childish wonder. But the circumstances of that 4th of July and the execution of the murderer were burned into my brain with letters of fire, never to be effaced while memory holds her sway.

Every man was under arms that night. Horses were tied up and the work oxen chained to the wagons, a strict guard being kept on the traders in the mean time. The next morning the long string of wagons started out on the road. Two hundred men rode on either side to defend the train, while scouting parties rode at a distance to guard against surprise. This formation was kept up for several days, but seeing neither traders nor Indians the different trains separated and each went its way unmolested.

Bear river and Soda Springs were next passed. A few miles this side of Soda Springs the roads forked, one going to California and the other to Oregon. Here a council was held. A portion of “our train” wanted to take the California road. Others preferred the Oregon route. A vote was taken and resulted in a majority for Oregon, and association and friendship being stronger than mere individual preference, all moved out on the Oregon road.

Snake river was finally reached, and here the real trials of the journey began. From some cause, not then understood, our oxen began to die. The best and fattest died first, often two and three in one camp. Cows were drawn into the yoke and the journey resumed. But it soon became evident that loads must be lightened. Wagons loaded with stores and provisions were driven to the side of the road and an invitation written with charcoal for all to help themselves. To add to the difficulties of our situation, the Snake Indians were surly and insolent to a degree. Gradually a gloom settled over all. No more of laughter, of dancing and song. And faster and faster the oxen died. Camping places were almost unbearable on account of the dead and decaying cattle. And then the terrible mountains of which we had heard so much were before us. Would we ever reach the settlements? This was a question that began to prey upon the minds of many. A few of the young men shouldered a blanket and some provisions and started on foot to reach the valley. Others began to despair of ever reaching the promised land. If those who cross the continent now in palace cars and complain of the tediousness of the journey could take one look at the wreck and desolation that lined the poisoned banks of Snake river, they would hide their heads in very shame.

As our situation became more desperate it appeared the Indians became more sullen and mean. Guards were kept night and day, the women and children driving the teams and loose cattle and horses in order that the men might get some rest. At one point the danger seemed imminent. The men on night guard reported that the horses were snorting and acting as if Indians were about. Mr. Fathergill’s mule appeared especially uneasy. The cattle and horses were then all driven to camp, the horses tied up and the oxen chained to the wagons. The next morning moccasin tracks were discovered within a hundred yards of our camp, showing plainly that only extreme caution and foresight had saved us all from massacre. After that camps were selected with a view to defense. A point was finally reached where we were to bid farewell to the dread Snake river. Several trains camped there that night. Among them was a man named Wilson, a brother of ex-Senator Henry Wilson of Colusa county. Cattle had been rounded up and oxen placed under the yoke. Wilson became involved in a quarrel with a young man in his employ. Suddenly both drew revolvers and began firing at each other. The duel ended by Wilson falling from his mule, a dead man. The young man rode away and was seen no more. A grave was dug, the dead man buried and within two hours the train was in motion. There was no time for tears or ceremonies. Winter was coming on, and the terrible mountains must be crossed. Besides the dread of an Indian attack was ever present.

After leaving Snake river we lost no more cattle. We crossed the Blue Mountains without any mishap. We met several settlers coming out with teams to help any that might be in distress. They were told to go on back, as others were behind far more in need of assistance than we. On reaching the Columbia river we found the Indians very friendly and obtained an abundance of fresh salmon. Trifles were traded for salmon and wild currants, which formed a welcome addition to our bill of fare. The dreaded Cascade Mountains were finally reached. A storm was raging on the mountain and we were advised by settlers whom we met coming out to assist the immigrants, to wait for better weather. Some disregarded the advice and paid dearly for their temerity, losing many of their cattle, and only for the help rendered by the settlers might themselves have perished.

As soon as the storm spent its force a start was made and the dreaded mountains passed in six days, and without any serious mishap. On reaching the valley we were everywhere greeted with genuine western hospitality. Vegetables were plentiful and cheap–in fact could be had for the asking. But while wheat was abundant there were no mills to grind it into flour, and we soon discovered that that very necessary article could not be had for love or money. We were therefore soon reduced to a daily diet of boiled wheat, potatoes, pumpkins and wild meat, the latter requiring but little exertion to secure. But we were as well off as anybody else, and with the remnants of clothing saved from the wreck of the desert and plains passed the winter in health and some degree of comfort.

Chapter II.

Our First Winter in the Willamette Valley.

The winter of 1852-53 will forever be memorable in the annals of pioneer days in Oregon. Indeed, nothing comparable had been experienced by immigrants in former years. Deep snows encompassed us from without, and while we were sheltered from the storms by a comfortable log cabin, and were supplied with a fair amount of provisions such as they were, a gloom settled over all. Cattle and horses were without forage and none could be had. Reduced to skin and bone by the long and toilsome journey across the plains, they were illy prepared to stand the rigors of such a winter. In this extremity recourse was had to the forest. The Oregon woods, as all are aware, are covered by long streamers of yellow moss, and in the cutting of firewood it was discovered this moss was devoured with a relish by cattle and horses.

Then began the struggle to save our stock. From early morning to night the ring of the ax was unceasing. The cattle, especially, soon learned the meaning of the cracking of a tree and bolted for the spot. To prevent them being killed by the falling trees, the smaller children were pressed into service to herd them away until the tree was on the ground. The stock soon began to thrive and cows gave an increased amount of milk which was hailed with delight by the small children and afforded a welcome addition to their bill of fare–boiled wheat, potatoes, meat, and turnips.

Thus wore away the terrible winter of 1852-53. I say terrible, and the word but poorly expresses our situation during that memorable winter. To fully understand our situation one has but to imagine oneself in a strange land, far from human aid, save from those environed as ourselves. We were three thousand miles from “home,” surrounded by a primeval wilderness, in which ever lurked the treacherous savage. Happily for us and for all, no annoyance or real danger threatened us from that quarter. A few years before, a salutary lesson had been taught the savages. The deadly rifles of the pioneers had instilled into their bosoms a wholesome fear. Information had reached the settlers that the Indians contemplated a massacre–that they were going to break out. The information reached them through the medium of a friendly Indian. The result was that the settlers “broke out” first. A company was formed, consisting of about all of the able-bodied men within reach. The savages were encountered on the Molalley and after a sharp fight were dispersed or killed. Several were left dead on the ground. The whites had one man wounded. Thus the war power of the Molalleys was destroyed forever.

In this connection I wish to make a digression, which I trust my readers will pardon. It has often been urged that the white man has shown little gratitude and no pity for the aborigines of this country. This I wish to refute. The Indian that brought the word of warning to the white settlers was ever after the object of tender solicitude on the part of those whom he had befriended. I have seen that Indian, then old and possibly worse off for his association with civilization, sitting down and bossing a gang of Chinamen cutting and splitting wood for Dan’l Waldo. The Indian, “Quinaby,” always contracted the sawing of the wood at $2.00 per cord and hired the Chinamen to do the work for 50 cents per cord. He had a monopoly on the wood-sawing business for Mr. Waldo, Wesley Shannon, and other old pioneers. It mattered not to “Quinaby” that prices went down, his contract price remained the same, and the old pioneers heartily enjoyed the joke, and delighted in telling it on themselves.

But enough of this. Spring came at last and a new world burst upon the vision of the heretofore almost beleaguered pioneers. We had wintered on a “claim” belonging to a young man named John McKinney, two miles from the present town of Jefferson. He had offered his cabin as a shelter with true Western hospitality, including the free use of land to plant a crop. Accordingly about twenty acres were plowed and sown to wheat. This work was performed by my elder brothers. Meantime my father had started out to look for a claim. Nine miles north of Eugene City he purchased a “claim” of 320 acres, paying therefor an Indian pony and $40 in cash. To this place we moved early in May, and there began the task of building up a home in the western wilds. A small cabin of unhewn logs constituted the only improvement on the “claim,” but a new house of hewn logs was soon erected and a forty-acre field inclosed with split rails. We had plenty of neighbors who, like ourselves, were improving their lands, and mutual assistance was the rule.

As summer approached it became necessary to return to our wintering place, where a crop had been sown, and harvest the same. Accordingly, my father, accompanied by my two older brothers, the late Judge J. M. Thompson of Lane County, and Senator S. C. Thompson, Jr., of Wasco, then boys of 12 and 14 years, went back and cared for the grain. The wheat was cut with a cradle, bound into bundles and stacked. A piece of ground was then cleared, the grain laid down on the “tramping floor” and oxen driven around until the grain was all tramped out. After the grain was all “threshed out,” it was carried on top of a platform built of rails and poured out on a wagon sheet, trusting to the wind to separate the wheat kernels from the straw and chaff. By this primitive method the crop was harvested, threshed, cleaned, and then sacked. It was then hauled by ox teams to Albany where a small burr mill had been erected by a man named Monteith, if my memory serves me correctly, and then ground to flour.

And then, joy of joys! We had wheat bread. No more boiled wheat, nor flour ground in a coffee mill,–but genuine wheat bread. You, reader, who probably never ate a meal in your life without bread, have little conception of the deliciousness of a biscuit after the lapse of a year. As Captain Applegate once said to the writer, referring to the first wheat bread he ever remembered eating: “No delicacy,–no morsel of food ever eaten in after life tasted half so delicious as that bread.” It must be remembered that Captain Applegate crossed the plains in 1843 and was therefore an “old settler” when we arrived. His trials were prolonged only a matter of eight years; but looking back, what an eternity was emcompassed in those eight years.

One of the leading characteristics of the Anglo-Saxon is that on coming to the western hemisphere he brought with him his wife and children,– his school books, and his Bible. As soon, therefore, as a spot for a home had been selected and a rude shelter of logs erected for loved ones, the neighbors began discussing the question of school. It was finally arranged that we must have a school, and the cabin of a bachelor settler was tendered and accepted, and my father chosen as teacher. Logs were split open and placed on legs, with the flat sides turned up to serve as seats. The floor,–well, Mother Earth provided that. It was sprinkled and swept out with “split brooms” twice daily. To prevent the pupils getting lost in the tall grass of the prairies, furrows were plowed from the settlers’ cabins to the school house. This also served as a protection to the barefoot girls and boys going to and from, school. My father belonged to the old school and did not believe in “sparing the rod,” and as a result, it became indelibly impressed upon my juvenile mind that he used the rod upon me to better preserve order among the other pupils.

In those days girls dressed in “linsey woolsey,” while the boys of all ages wore buckskin pantaloons and hickory shirts. Now, buckskin is well calculated to stand the wear and tear of even a robust boy. Yet there were awkward drawbacks. The legs of the pantaloons absorbed too much moisture from the dew-bedecked grass and they would stretch out to almost any length. The boy, therefore, must roll them up at the bottom. Arrived at school, however, the drying process set in, and he, perforce, must unroll the legs. As the boy occupied a sitting position, the legs of his buckskins set to the crook of his knees. Imagine, if you will, a row of boys ranging from 12 to 17 years, standing in a class reciting their lessons, straight as hickories, yet the pantaloons of every mother’s son of them still sitting down. But it mattered little to the boy of that day, as he had only to wet them again, stretch them out straight and wear them to “meetin’ in the grove” Sunday.

There was no aristocracy–no “four hundred”–in those primitive days. All dressed alike, ate the same kind of food, and every man, woman, and child was as good as every other man, woman, and child, provided they were honest, kind neighbors, ready and willing to render assistance in sickness or in need. In fine, these pioneers constituted a pure democracy, where law was the simple rule of honesty, friendship, mutual help, and good will, where “duty was love and love was law.”

One must not imagine that life was wholly devoid of pleasures in those days. The young of both sexes always rode horseback, whether to church in the grove, or going the round of parties, candy pullings, or kissing bees. O, how in my young days I did dote on the candy pulling and the kissing bee. To my young and unsophisticated mind they were divine institutions; and, even now, after the lapse of so many years when the “heydey in the blood is tame,” how I look back upon those few days with unalloyed pleasure.

Among the early pioneers, I mean the great masses, there was a stern code of morals little understood at the present time. Exceptions there were, to be sure, but I refer to the people as a whole. One instance will serve as an illustration. The beaux and belles, in linsey-woolsey and buckskins, were assembled from the country around and about. My father had sent me along with brothers and sisters to bring back the saddle horses, as there was not stable room for all. Other neighbor boys were there on a like errand. We were sitting on our horses and ready to start, when several of the young ladies, among them my sisters, came out of the house and told us to wait. Presently, practically all of the girls came out with hats and riding habits and a consultation was held in the front yard. While they all stood there a man and a woman came out, mounted their horses and rode away. We were then told to go on home with the horses. I afterwards learned that the whole trouble originated in the fact that the lady who had ridden away was a divorced woman. To present-day readers, this may appear absurd, prudish, but not so to the men and women of that day. This is not repeated here to “point a moral,” but merely to “adorn a tale” of pioneer days.

For excitement, the frequent Indian uprisings, and more frequent Indian scares, afforded abundant material upon which the young enterprising and adventurous spirits of the day could work off their surplus energies. Hunting, too, afforded a pleasurable and profitable pastime to the young when not engaged in the work of building houses, barns, and fences, and the boy of ten who could not pick off the head of a grouse or pheasant at thirty or forty yards was only fit to be “tied to mama’s apron string.” In times of danger age was no bar, the boy of 14 marched side by side with the gray haired volunteer, or remained at home to protect “mother and the children.” I well remember once when the neighborhood was thrown into a turmoil of excitement. A large grizzly bear had left his mountain lair and was playing havoc with the cattle and other stock in the valley. News reached the school house and my father at once dismissed school, hurrying to join those in pursuit of the robber. Arriving at home he mounted his horse, and taking his rifle and revolver galloped away to join the neighbors. Now, I wanted to go and see the fight, but was curtly told to stay at home. No sooner, however, than my father had got fairly started than I mounted a pony and followed. I was warned that punishment would follow. But what cared I for punishment at such a time? Go I would, though promised a dozen whippings.

The bear had taken shelter on a small mountain stream that coursed through the valley, and was bordered on either side by a narrow strip of ash, thorn, and rose bushes, while beyond this was the level prairie. In spite of scores of men and dogs the huge beast made progress towards the mountains. Baying dogs and the quick snarl of the rifles marked the rapid progress of the beast which at length reached a wooded ravine near the home of “Squire” Miller, that led up the mountain, where a mile above an old Indian was camped. The bear evidently came upon him unawares, but whether he was asleep or was getting water from the small stream, was never known, for, with one sweep of his mighty paw, the grizzly completely disemboweled the Indian, strewing his entrails fifteen feet on the ground. Half a mile above the body of the Indian the fatal shot, among many, was delivered and the chase was over.

As the neighbors gathered triumphantly around the dead body of the monarch of the Oregon forest I saw for the first time sitting on a horse, a boy destined to make a name in the world of letters, C. H. or “Joaquin” Miller. I remember him as a slender, light haired boy, several years my senior. During subsequent years it was given me to see much of this boy, at school, in the mines and later as an apprentice in the Eugene City Herald, a newspaper of which he was the editor.

Chapter III.

The Indian Outbreak of 1855.

The years of 1853-4 were years of comparative peace, free from actual Indian wars, and afforded the pioneers an opportunity of improving their farms, building up more comfortable homes and surrounding their families with some comforts and conveniences of civilization. Yet even these years were not free from alarms and stampedes. Time and again swift riders spread the news that the redskins had dug up the tomahawk and had gone on the war path. These scares arose from isolated murders by the Indians, whose cupidity could not withstand the temptations of the white man’s property. It was not, therefore, until midsummer of 1855 that hostilities began in earnest. A federation had been formed among all the tribes of Northern California, Southern and Eastern Oregon and Washington. The great leaders of this insurrection were Tyee John and his brother “Limpy,” Rogue River Indians, and John was one of the greatest, bravest and most resourceful warriors this continent has produced. Another was Pe-mox-mox, who ruled over the Cayouses and the Columbias, and was killed early in the war while attempting to lead the white troops into ambush.

The outbreak was sudden and fierce, lighting up the frontier with the burning cabins of the settlers. Travelers were waylaid, prospectors murdered and in many instances entire families wiped out, their homes becoming their funeral pyres. Neither age nor sex was spared. Little children were seized by the heels and their brains dashed out against the corner of the cabin. One entire family perished amid the flames of their burning home. Women were butchered under circumstances of peculiar and diabolical atrocity. A man named Harris, attacked by Indians on the Rogue River, defended himself until killed. His wife then took up the defense of her home and little daughter, and with a heroism that has rendered her name immortal in the annals of Oregon, held the savages at bay until relief came twenty-four hours later.

Mock sentimentalists and fake humanitarians have walled their eyes to heaven in holy horror at the “barbarities” practiced by white men upon the “poor persecuted red man.” Yet had they witnessed scenes like those I have so faintly portrayed, they too, would have preached a war of extermination. You and I, reader, have an exceedingly thin veneering of civilization, and in the presence of such scenes of diabolical atrocity would slip it off as a snake sheds his skin. I have seen men as kind and gentle,–as humane–as yourself transformed into almost savages in the presence of such scenes.

For a year previous to the great outbreak, the Indians would leave their reservations in squads, and after murdering and pillaging the settlements, would return with their plunder to the protection of the agencies. Demands made for their surrender by the settlers were answered by a counter demand for their authority, which required delay and generally ended with the escape of the murderers. The result was that squads of Indians off the reservations were attacked and sometimes exterminated. Thus affairs grew from bad to worse until the final great outbreak during the summer of 1855.

Geo. L. Curry, Governor of the Territory of Oregon, at once issued a call to arms and volunteers from every part of the territory instantly responded. A company of U. S. dragoons under command of Capt. A. J. Smith, who subsequently achieved fame in the war of the States, was stationed in Southern Oregon, and rendered all possible aid, but the slow tactics of the regulars was illy calculated to cope with the savages. The main reliance, therefore, must be placed in the citizen soldiery. Every county in the Territory answered the call to arms, forming one or more companies, the men, as a rule, supplying their own horses, arms, ammunition, and at the beginning of the outbreak, their own blankets and provisions. There was no question about pay. The men simply elected their own officers and without delay moved to the front.

Linn county furnished one company under Capt. Jonathan Keeny and went south to join Col. Ross’ command and was joined by many of our neighbors. My two brothers also went with this command, one as teamster, the other shouldering the spare rifle. As previously remarked, age was not considered, the boy of 14 marching side by side with the gray haired man, armed with the rifles they brought from the States. The ammunition consisted of powder, caps and molded bullets, nor was the “patchen” for the bullet omitted. The powder was carried in a powder horn, the caps in a tin box, the bullets in a shot pouch and patchen for the bullets was cut out the proper size and strung on a stout leather thong attached to and supporting the shot pouch and powder horn.

In the fall after the departure of the first contingent, and at a time when families were practically defenseless, news reached us by a tired rider that 700 Indians had crossed the trail over the Cascade mountains and were burning the homes and butchering the settlers on the Calapooya, twenty miles away. The news reached us in the night, and one can easily imagine the confusion and consternation that everywhere prevailed. To realize our situation one must remember that most of the men and about all of the guns had gone south. I shall never forget the awful suspense and dread that prevailed in our home as the family sat in a group through the long weary hours of that night, anxiously awaiting the return of the day, yet dreading what the day might bring forth. Horses were gathered and securely tied about the house, and such arms as we possessed made ready for instant use. At last day broke, and searching with the eye the almost boundless prairie, no enemy was in sight.

As the sun rose above the rim of the distant mountains my father determined to disprove or verify the rumor. Neighbors sought to dissuade him, but mounting a swift horse he started for Brownsville on the Calapooya. Meantime everything was in readiness for forting up should it become necessary. The day wore on, still no news. In vain we gazed from the house top over the prairie for a sight of a horseman. Doubt and uncertainty as to the fate of my father and our own fate was almost worse than death. The day wore on. Would father never return–had he been killed? were the questions whispered one with another. My mother alone was confident, relying on father’s discretion and the further fact that he was riding the swiftest horse in the Territory. At last near sunset we descried him galloping leisurely toward home. When within a short distance he settled into a walk, and we then knew that the danger, at least for the present, was not imminent. The only emotion manifested by my mother was a stray tear that coursed down her pale and trouble-worn cheek. My father reported a false alarm, originating in the overwrought imagination of settlers on the exposed margin of the valley.

At other times the alarm came from the west side of the river. Fears were entertained that the savages from the south would cross over the Calapooya mountains and attack the settlements in Lane county. One settler had a large bass drum, and the beating of this, which could be heard for miles, was the signal of danger. More than once the deep roll of the drum roused the country, only to discover that it was a false alarm. But these constant alarms were trying indeed, especially on the timid and nervous, and women became almost hysterical on the most trivial occasions.

Time wore on, and at length the news came of the defeat of Col. Ross’ volunteers and Capt. Smith’s dragoons. Many were killed with no compensating advantage to the whites. Among the number killed was one of our neighbor boys, John Gillispie, son of a minister, and my father and mother went over to their home to convey the sad news and to render such poor consolation to the parents as was possible. Every family in the land had one or more of its members with the troops, and any day might bring tidings of death or even worse. Hence there was a close bond of sympathy between all. Happily, the death of young Gillispie was to be the only one to visit our neighborhood.

The stay-at-homes, those gallant (?) soldiers who fight their battles with their mouths, were loud in fault finding and severe in censure of those in command, and would tell how the battle should have been fought and how not. This was especially true of the one-horse politicians, too cowardly to go to the front, and of disgruntled politicians. To the shame of our common humanity be it said, there were not wanting those who sought to coin the very blood of the brave men at the front, and these ghouls and vampires talked loudest when the war was at length brought to a close, to be quoted in after years as history by Bancroft and others.

Chief John adopted a Fabian policy from the first. He would disappear with his warriors, hiding away in the deep recesses of the mountains only to appear again when and where least expected, but towards the close of 1856 his people grew tired of war. They said the more men they killed the more came and took their places, and in spite of John and Limpy they determined to sue for peace. The terms were finally agreed upon, and John and Limpy, deserted but not conquered, at last surrendered.

After the surrender, John and son, a lad of 16, were placed on board a steamer and started to a reservation up the coast. When off the mouth of Rogue river and beholding the hunting grounds of his people and the familiar scenes of his youth, he made a desperate attempt to capture the ship. It was a “Call of the Wild,” and snatching a sabre from his guard he succeeded in driving them below and for a time had possession of the ship’s deck. But firearms were brought into play, one leg of the boy was shot off and John, badly wounded, was placed in irons. He told his captors that it was his purpose to capture the ship, run her ashore and escape into the mountains. On a reservation, John spent the remainder of his days,–a captive yet unconquered save by death. As previously stated, in point of courage, cunning, savage ferocity and soldierly ability and generalship, Tyee John has had few equals and no superiors on the North American continent.

It was not my purpose to attempt a detailed history of the Rogue River war as that task were better left to the historian with leisure to delve into the musty records of the past, but I sincerely hope that when the true story of that bloody time is written the kernel of truth will be sifted from the mass of chaff by which it has thus far been obscured. My purpose is merely to give the facts in a general way as I received them, and the conditions surrounding the pioneers of which I was one. The true story of the Rogue River war is but a duplicate of many other Indian wars. It is a story of incompetent, bigoted, self-opinionated, Indian agents, wedded to form and red tape, without any of common sense or “horse sense,” required in dealing with conditions such as existed prior to the breaking out of he war.

The early immigrants to the Oregon, and indeed, to the Pacific coast, merely sought to better their conditions. They came with their flocks and herds, their wives and their children, their school books and their Bibles, seeking not to dispossess or rob the occupants of the land. They found a vast empire, of which the natives were utilizing but a small portion. There was room for all and to spare. The natives at first received the white strangers with kindness and hospitality. There were exceptions even to this rule, but it was the exception. The white man’s property soon excited the cupidity of the Indian, and knowing no law but the law of might, he sought to possess himself of the same. And right here I want to say, that from an experience covering more than half a century, the only thing an Indian respects on earth, is Power. Courage he respects for the simple reason that courage is power. And I might further add, that this rule applies with equal force to the white as well as to the copper-colored savage.

Treaties had been made with the Rogue Rivers and the Umpquas but in a true sense were not treaties, but, on the part of the Government, merely bribes to be good. They moved to reservations, enjoyed the blankets and other good things provided by the Government so long as it suited them. Then they would steal out of the reservations, rob, murder and plunder the settlers, and return to the protection of the agents. Tracked to the reservations, the agents refused to surrender them. The red tape here interposed and red handed murderers were saved, that more murders might be committed. Instead of the Government and the agents being a protection to the settlers, they were the protectors of the Indians, and as sometimes happened, troops were called upon to lend a helping hand. Such conditions could not last–such outrages could not be endured. Hence when bands were caught off the reservations they were destroyed like dangerous, noxious beasts.

Apologists of murder and rapine have held up their hands in holy horror at such acts on the part of the settlers. The “poor, persecuted people,” according to them, were foully wronged, massacred and exterminated. They saw but one side, and that was the side of the savages. With the close of the Rogue River war, the Indian question west of the Cascade mountains was settled forever. John and Limpy had made a heroic struggle for the hunting grounds of their fathers and incidentally for the goods and chattels, and the scalps of the white invaders. But, moralize as you may, the fiat of God had gone forth; the red man and the white man could not live peaceably together; one or the other must go. And in obedience to the law of the survival of the fittest, it was the red man that must disappear. It was, in my opinion, merely a continuation of the struggle for existence–a struggle as old as man, which began when “first the morning stars sang together,” and will continue till the end of time. That law applies to all creatures. Take for instance, the lower order of animals. In the tropics the deer is small, not much larger than a coyote. The weakling as well as the strong and vigorous can survive. Further north, where conditions are harder, the deer is larger. Continuing on north, where only the strong and vigorous can survive the rigors of winter, we find the caribou.

It may be pointed out that the largest animals of earth are found in the tropics, where the struggle for existence is least severe. Yet in the frozen mud of Siberia and Alaska we find the remains of animals the elephant and the mastodon–compared to which old Jumbo was but a baby. And imbedded in the asphalt of Southern California is found the remains of the sabre toothed, tiger, by the side of which the royal Bengal is but a tabby cat. But I am getting into deep water, and will leave this question for the naturalist, the geologist and the theorist. And the passing of the “noble red man” to the gentleman in silk gown and slippers–and to the sentimental novelist.

Oregon settlers now had leisure time for building up their homes, so better houses were erected, fields were fenced and plowed, school houses and churches built, scythes and axes were wielded in place of the rifle that now rested in idleness above the cabin door. A new era had dawned on the Oregon, and gentle peace like a brooding spirit hovered above the erstwhile desolate land.

During the succeeding years, up to 1861, there was little to distract the attention of the pioneers. My time was occupied during that period in assisting on the farm during summer and attending the district school during the winter. The loop holes in the wall of the old school house for the rifles had been boarded up, and the larger boys no longer “toted” their guns, and stacked them in the corner.

On the east side of the Cascade mountains, however, the gentle savage was lord of all the lands over which he roamed. Here he was yet master, and thereby hangs a tale. In 1845 an immigrant train attempted to enter the Oregon by way of the “Meeks cut off.” With them were the Durbins, Simmons, Tetherows, Herrins and many others I cannot now recall. The history of that journey is one of hardship, starvation, and death. After enduring sufferings such as sicken one in the bare recital the remnant staggered into the settlements, more dead than alive. They crossed the Cascade mountains, coming down the Middle Fork of the Willamette river, and somewhere west of Harney Valley they stopped on a small stream. An old Indian trail crossed at that point, and the oxen in sliding down the bank to water uncovered a bright piece of metal. It was picked up and taken to camp, where a man who had been in the mines in Georgia pronounced it gold. He flattened it out with a wagon hammer, and was quite positive it was the precious metal. But men, women and children subsisting on grasshoppers and crickets and fighting Indians most of the day, had something else to think about.

The incident, therefore, was soon forgotten amid the dire stress of their surroundings. But when gold was discovered at Sutter’s Fort in California, Sol Tetherow called to mind the finding of the piece of metal on the banks of the stream not far from Harney Valley. He told about it–told and retold the story, and as the stories from California grew, so grew the story of the old man, until finally he declared he could have “picked up a blue bucket full in the bed of the creek.” Hence originated the name, the “Blue Bucket Diggins.”

During the years of 1857-58-59-60 and 61, companies were formed in the valley counties to search for the “Blue Bucket Diggins.” The companies were loosely formed, with little or no discipline, and were, therefore, predestined to end in disaster. After crossing the mountains and seeing no sign of Indians, the officers had no power and less inclination to enforce discipline. There being no signs of Indians, it was useless to maintain guards; they could whip all the Indians east of the mountains, and why attempt to put on “military airs?” They were destined to a rude awakening. Some morning about daylight, twenty or thirty red blanketed men, with hideous yells would charge the horse herds, while a hundred or more with equally hideous yells would attack the sleeping men. Then would result a stampede, those who had talked loudest and talked most about cowards, being first to lose their heads. The few cool heads would make a stand, while the savages after getting away with the horses, would beat a retreat, leaving the gold hunters to straggle afoot back across the mountains to the settlements.

These expeditions served to work off the surplus energy of the adventurous and restless, until the news arrived in the spring of 1861 of the discovery of gold in the Nez Perce mountains. The reports, as in most similar cases, were greatly exaggerated, but it served to create a genuine stampede, and while yet a boy of 14, I was drawn into that torrent rushing to the new El Dorado. In justice to the good sound sense and mature judgment of my parents, I am compelled to say that it was not with their consent that I was drawn into this wild whirlpool, but, I argued, was I not a man? Could I not ride and shoot with the best of them? And, perforce, why should I not go to the mines and make my fortune?

I went. But by way of parenthesis, will say to my young readers–Don’t.

Chapter IV.

In Which Various Experiences are Discussed.

I have now arrived at a point where I shall speak more of myself, and the insignificant part I was to play in molding history and shaping the destinies of Oregon and the Northwest.

Joining a company of neighbors we crossed the Cascade Mountains by way of the Barlow route. All had saddle horses with one pack horse, or mule, to two men. At Grass Valley, between the Deschutes and John Day River we fell in with a large company returning from a search for the “Blue Bucket Diggins.” They, had been successful (in saving their horses) and hearing of the Oro Fino strike were bound, like ourselves, for the new El Dorado.

At the crossing of the John Day River we found a ferry boat kept and owned by a couple of thrifty traders, who had set themselves down to make their fortunes quickly and without the aid of the pick and shovel. But their covetousness was their ruin. The sum of $6 was demanded for a horseman and $4 for a pack horse. Our party argued with them, but to no purpose. They would take nothing less. After parleying for some time the traders were asked the price for ferrying over a foot-man and his luggage. Wall Cushman, one of the traders, replied, “one dollar.” Then saddles and packs began to come off the backs of horses and mules. Cushman threatened, swore and plead, but all to no purpose. He should receive one dollar for ferrying footmen and no more.

Saddles, packs, provisions, and blankets were piled up at the ferry landing and the most stupendous amount of luggage ever carried by a hobo was then, one after another, piled on the backs of footmen. The footman would stand within a step of the boat and, after his luggage was piled on his back, would make a step on to the boat, and drop his load. Often two and three men would steady him until the step was made. All was fun and laughter except to Cushman and his partner. While this was going on, others had crowded the horses to the river bank and were endeavoring to make them swim the river. But try as they would, the horses upon striking the swift current of the river would swing around and come out on the same side. It was now Cushman’s time to laugh. In this extremity a reward of $20 was offered any one who would swim his horse ahead of the band and guide them over. I quickly volunteered. I wanted the twenty, and I wanted to save my dollar. Some of the older men objected. But I had swum my horse across the Williamette River and the insignificant John Day, not a fourth as wide, had no terrors for me. Mounting my horse, I rode down into the river until almost swimming. Meantime I had divested myself of all clothing save that provided by mother nature, and having loaded my saddle and effects on the back of my partner, fastened my right hand in my horse’s mane and gave the word. Sliding off on the lower side I guided my horse with my hand and he took the current of the stream like a steamboat. The other horses to an animal followed, and in a few moments were all safely on the other shore. The crowd cheered heartily and even Wall Cushman could not restrain his feelings, but exclaimed, “My boy, you are a brick.”

The $20 was not only given me, but several who had not contributed to the first “pot” gave a half dollar. Altogether I was handsomely paid for my few moment’s work, and as the water was not cold, I rather enjoyed the swim.

From there we went to Walla Walla, following the old Nez Perce trails. At that time there were not a dozen habitations between the Dalles and Walla Walla, where now is a densely settled country and one of the great wheat belts of the continent. A few days after crossing the John Day I made my first horse trade. An old school teacher in the company fell in love with my horse, and not only gave me a better animal, but almost the value of my own to boot. I began then to flatter myself that I was not only a traveler, but a business man as well. But alas! I had many a sad lesson to learn ere I got my “teeth cut.”

Arriving at Walla Walla, then a small village, with a Government post half a mile away, we purchased a few supplies and then pushed on to the mines. Going down the Alpowwa I saw apple trees planted by Father Spaulding, of blessed memory, in 1836. The trees were thrifty and some of them very large, and were being cared for by Nez Perce Indians. The good Father Spaulding, with other Presbyterian missionaries, had come among these people bearing the message of peace and good will and they, with the exception of the rebellion of Chief Joseph, had ever after adhered to his gentle teachings. The Nez Perce Indians are the most intelligent and finest looking Indians I have ever seen. They are also a brave, self-reliant race, and Joseph’s band bears the distinction of being the only Indians on the continent with the steady courage to charge an equal number of the enemy in the open field.

We crossed Snake River at Lewiston, then a trading village of half a dozen tents. The ferry boat was towed up the river half a mile by a horse and then rowed across with oars pulled by two men. Lewiston is located at the junction of the Snake and Clearwater, but we went by way of Camas Prairie and crossed at Craig’s ferry, and two days later landed in Oro Fino city. Hundreds of miners had preceded us, and when we arrived the ground was all taken up. I, therefore, found a job at sluice forking at $75 per month, a boy’s wages. Men were receiving $5 per day of ten hours, but for night work $7.50 was paid.

I remained with my job but a short time, having found a better one in a store, more suited to my strength and at better wages. I was also agent for Miller & Mossman’s express and received a good commission for all the envelopes sold bearing their name. Envelopes were sold at $1 each, and were carried to Walla Walla by pony express. The Miller here referred to was then plain Heme Miller, express rider, but now known to fame and the world of letters as “Joaquin” Miller.

The little store where I was employed was located about three miles above Oro Fino city on Rhode’s Creek, the richest placer diggings in the district. Sunday was a busy day for miners. Clothes had to be washed, picks sharpened, letters written to the “folks at home,” and as often happened, “dust” sent to them also. This had to be carefully weighed on gold scales, a receipt given and the dust marked and placed in a buckskin purse. There was no other means of communication with the outside world, and both letters and dust must be sent by Miller & Mossman’s express. To the credit of Mr. Miller, be it said, that thieves, robbers and murderers let him severely alone. Not only that, but no one ever lost a dollar entrusted to Heine’s care, though murders and robberies were quite frequent, and it was well known that he always carried a large quantity of gold dust; but they simply didn’t want the job of taking it away from Heine Miller.

It was one of my duties to take the “express matter,” letters and gold dust, to Oro Fino in time for the Walla Walla express Monday morning. As the express started at 6 o’clock I had to get up early, besides it was deemed safest to “hoof down the trail” before daylight. The trail was a mere foot path cut through the bull pines, in the shadow of which imagination more than once pictured a lone robber. But I always carried my revolver in my hand and, though a boy, I was almost as good a shot as Miller–at least I thought so. However, I always arrived on time and without mishap or accident.

After delivering my express matter I had leisure to walk about town, view the sights and watch the swaying crowds of gamblers, sure thing sharps and other forms of human flotsam and jetsam as they fleeced their victims, the miners. One occasion I shall never forget. It was the funeral of one of the prominent citizens of Oro Fino. The aforesaid prominent citizen bore the euphonious cognomen of “Bob-up-the-creek.” Bob, probably at his christening, was given another name answers as well as another, especially among the aristocracy of which Bob was an honored member. Bob was a bad actor, too, especially when under the influence of liquor. One Sunday Bob imbibed quite freely and finally “declared himself chief.” There were none who cared to dispute with Bob his self assumed title, but he finally ran “up against” an old Frenchman who kept a pie stand. Bob concluded to take possession of the stand, but his right to do so was disputed by the Frenchman. To settle the dispute the Frenchman emptied the contents of a double barreled shot gun into Bob’s head. That settled the dispute and likewise Bob.

Being a citizen of prominence, his friends and admirers determined to give Bob a respectable send off. Accordingly a neat coffin was purchased and Bob reverently placed therein. A procession was formed and from fifty to seventy-five of his friends followed his remains to the newly made cemetery on the hill. All were in full dress–black pantaloons, checked flannel shirt with white collar, and with a revolver and knife swung conveniently to the belt. Now, no self-respecting or prudent gentleman of the class of which I am speaking, moved abroad in those days without the ever handy knife and pistol. As the occasion was one of importance, I followed after the procession. Arriving at the grave, the coffin was placed upon two poles laid across the vault. The burial service was then read by one of the mourners, a faro dealer, if my memory serves me right, a solemn hymn was sung and then all that was mortal of “Bob-up-the-creek” was consigned to the grave. Four lusty mourners then began shoveling in the dirt. When the grave was about two-thirds filled, a repulsive looking vagabond, the town drunk, threw himself across the grave bellowing like a bull buffalo, and exclaiming “here is a poor soul gone to eternity and not one tear shed over his grave.” Meanwhile the dirt kept falling–it appeared to me a little faster, when the old drunk, seeing himself about to be buried alive, crawled upon his feet, shaking himself very much as a wet dog is wont to shake himself. This action was greeted with peals of laughter and shouts from the mourners. Such was the funeral of “Bob-up-the-creek.” Shocked and disgusted I turned and walked down the hill to town, to be followed soon after by a laughing, jesting crowd, who dispersed to their different “places of business” to lie in wait for the unwary sucker, the miner.

I remained at the store until the proprietor, Mr. Vaughn, sold out, and hearing that a company was being formed at Pierce City to go to the Blackfoot country on a prospecting expedition, I went there and applied to the, leader for admission. He looked me over, smiled and said that it was too dangerous an expedition for a boy. I replied that I supposed there was danger, that I was not afraid and could shoot as good as any of them. At this the men listening began laughing and the leader told me he didn’t want me. Indignant, I turned away, but was followed a little way by a rather pleasant looking man. He said, “My boy, you are too young to go with the crowd. They are a rough set and not fit for a boy of your age to associate with.” He then shook hands with me and bade me good bye.

I returned to Oro Fino, and as winter was approaching, I joined a strong party and started back to Walla Walla. This was deemed prudent, for besides the robbers, there were rumors of Indian troubles after we should have passed beyond the Nez Perce country. About this time we began hearing rumors of the Battle of Bull Run, and this formed the chief subject for conversation around the camp fire of evenings. At Lewiston a very dignified Indian, a Nez Perce, asked permission to join our company to Walla Walla. He was accompanied by a boy about 16 whom we judged to be his son. Permission, of course, we readily granted and we proceeded on our way. That evening the usual subject of conversation came up, Northern and Southern men good naturedly discussing the news, and each construing a victory for his side. Finally the Indian spoke up and said, “I think, gentlemen, I can settle your controversy. I have received the latest papers and all are agreed that the battle resulted in a disaster to the Federal arms.” All looked at him in astonishment, but he continued and gave us a vivid description of the battle. We at once knew the speaker to be none other than Lawyer, chief of the Nez Perces, scholar and graduate of an eastern college, and one of the bright men of any race red or white. I met him after our arrival at Walla Walla and recognized in the superbly dressed man our fellow traveler. He wore a broadcloth suit, silk hat and carried a gold headed cane. His son was also well dressed.

Again following the old Nez Perce trails, which everyone who has traveled over that country during the early days will remember, we proceeded to the John Day River. Here I met some old Lane county friends, a Mr. Driskol and his son, a young man of about 21 years of age. They had driven over the mountains a band of cattle and turned them on the range at John Day and Rock Creek. Two brothers named John and Zim Smith, from Douglas county, had also driven out cattle and turned them loose on the same range. The Smiths had returned to the valley, but were expected back in a week or such a matter.

Driskol and his son now asked me to remain with them and assist in rounding up the cattle preparatory to leaving them for the winter. They would pay me good wages and then, the Smiths returning, we would all go home together. The free wild life of the prairie having an almost irresistible charm for me, it did not require much persuasion to induce me to remain.

Our task consisted in riding the river and tributary streams and driving the cattle back on the range. The men at the ferry told us that the Columbias were friendly and to be trusted. They cautioned us that the country further up the river and Rock Creek was frequently raided by roving bands of Snake Indians. These savages were hostile at all times, and this was one reason it was desirable to prevent the cattle straying too far and thus falling an easy prey to the Snakes. They also said it would be prudent to keep a sharp lookout when riding too far south. We continued riding and driving in the cattle for a couple of weeks, hoping for the return of the Smiths before venturing too far. But they not returning, we decided to go up Rock Creek above the cattle and drive them down.

The first day we traveled leisurely along and made about twenty miles. That night we camped and made our beds in a rye grass bottom, having previously cooked our supper and riding until after dark. This was done to prevent any roving band of Snakes that might be in the country from discovering our camp and attacking us at disadvantage. The old gentlemen Driskol was uneasy and he and his son watched our camp time about. I offered to take my turn, but the old gentleman said “the boy will go to sleep,” an arrangement very satisfactory to a tired, sleepy-headed boy. The next morning we packed up and rode to a favorable place and cooked our breakfast. While we were eating an Indian rode into camp, who hailed us in jargon and we assumed at once that he was a Columbia. He said he had lost a horse while deer hunting and if we were going any further south he would like to travel with us. We thought little of the matter and readily gave permission, the more so as he carried a good rifle and would be a welcome addition to our party in the event of a “scrap” with the Snakes. As we proceeded up Rock Creek, we still found cattle tracks and were loth to turn back. We halted at noon to rest our horses and cook our dinner by the side of a pool in the bed of a creek. While the younger Driskol was getting dinner, the elder Driskol keeping a watch, a wild goose lit in the pond 20 feet away. Picking up my rifle I shot its head off. I will now confess that if ever a foolish, thoughtless boy got a scolding I got it then and there, from the elder Driskol. He declared I was trying to bring “the Snakes right down to murder us all.” I was sorry of course for my thoughtlessness, but all the same I got my goose. That evening that goose was the subject of many lectures, was in fact a continued story.

As evening wore on and we were getting further and further away from our camp on the John Day, we were more than usually careful. Patches of willows, narrow canyons and high rye grass bottoms were avoided. In fact, we kept on open ground where we could see an enemy several hundred yards away. We figured that in an open field fight we could more than hold our own, notwithstanding the fact that we were only four in number, counting the Indian. But by-and-by, our traveling companion became a source of considerable uneasiness. When questioned regarding his lost horse he did not give straight replies, but was evasive and somewhat contradictory, and Mr. Driskol began to have suspicions regarding his friendly intentions. But what to do, or how to rid ourselves of his presence, was a puzzling question. Besides, we felt that we were safer where he could be watched than if out of our sight. That night, after eating our suppers, we traveled some distance after dark and stopped on a level piece of ground away from the creek bottom. We felt safer in the open country than in the high rye grass, especially on account of our Indian companion. We were very careful not to let the Indian see that we were suspicious of him, and after unsaddling and unpacking our horses all but the elder Driskol rolled up in their blankets, the Indian choosing a spot about ten steps away from us. Before lying down, it was deemed best to keep a strict watch on our fellow traveler, and if necessary keep him with us if we had to make him a prisoner. Of course nothing was said to him about keeping watch. During the night he was several times detected, cautiously rising on his elbow and looking around. Discovering the guard he would lie down with a grunt as if with satisfaction.

When daylight came we started to saddle up and load our two pack horses, intending to go some distance upon our return trip, before stopping for breakfast. Saddles were on the riding horses and the Driskols were loading the packs. I had been directed to keep a close watch on the Indian, “and if he attempts to get away, shoot him,” said the elder Driskol. They were perhaps twenty steps away, and one of the pack horses starting off, the young man went to bring him back. The old gentleman was busy with the pack, when suddenly, quick almost as a flash, the Indian leaped upon young Driskol’s horse and started off. The movement took me by surprise and for an instant I sat as if stupified. Then seeing the rascal going like sin, I raised my rifle, took deliberate aim, and fired. The Indian threw back his head and throwing his arms aloft, plunged headlong into the grass.

“There goes that d—-d boy, shooting another goose,” said old gentleman Driskol, almost without looking around.

The young man, however, saw his horse galloping in a circle back to the other horses. Meantime I had dropped my muzzle loader and with revolver stood looking at the Indian kicking in the grass forty rods away. Mr. Driskol flow ran up to where I was standing and pointing to the Indian, I said, “It wasn’t a goose this time, Mr. Driskol.”

We were now all thoroughly alarmed, and imagined the Snakes would be down upon us in no time. Hastily fastening the packs, we then took the lock off the Indian’s gun and breaking the stock, threw it away. The pony, belonging to the Indian was unsaddled and turned loose, and we pulled out for the “home camp” in a hurry.

Why the Indian came to our camp we could never understand. He would have stood a better chance of stealing our horses by watching the camp, then slipping in upon us in the night and driving them away, unless it was to throw us off our guard. The probabilities are that he was either a Snake or a renegade Columbia or Umatilla Indian, and counted on getting our horses. Finding we were on our guard, and seeing an opportunity of “swapping horses” while the men were busy, paid no attention and gave no thought to the boy. Certain it was our, or rather the old gentleman Driskol’s watchfulness, that saved us from being left afoot forty miles from home. Whether he had confederates, we never knew, as we lost no time in putting as many miles between us and the “Snake country” as possible. During the day we kept in the open country, avoiding any point where an advantage could have been taken of us. We of course talked over the affair of the morning, but not once was the goose mentioned by Mr. Driskol. He did not even refer to the goose when apologizing to me for scoldings he had given me.

We arrived late at night at the ferry, and found everything in turmoil of excitement. Two men, an old man and his son, Briggs by name, if I remember correctly, had been killed by the Indians in Tye Valley, about thirty miles away. The murders created intense excitement, all fearing it was the signal for a general massacre of the settlers around the Dalles and the isolated traders on the Walla Walla road. The Smith brothers had returned and had been assisting the two men at the ferry in fortifying the post. The house, a mere shack, was being walled in with rock, port holes for the rifles being left. Our absence had created uneasiness on the part of the Smiths, but they knew it would be futile to attempt to find us. Besides, it was thought more than probable that we had already been massacred and to undertake to find us would be only to throw their own lives away.

Their surprise and pleasure was therefore great when we rode into the station at 11 o’clock at night. They at once informed us of the murder of the old man and his son, and heartily congratulated us when in return we told them of our own adventure. The two men at the ferry were positive that the Indian did not belong in that section, and by our prudence, they said, we had saved our horses and probably our lives. The next day we all joined in completing the fortifications, and when finished felt that we could “stand off” two or three tribes. Yet, notwithstanding our confidence, we felt that in the event of a general outbreak we were still in a dangerous position and that every care should be exercised. Upon my own part, I felt no uneasiness. Zim Smith was there, a rollicking devil-may-care fellow, and I believed he alone was the match for all of the Indians east of the Cascade Mountains. A careful guard was maintained, however, our horses kept near at hand, and we anxiously awaited results.

Several days thus passed. The Smiths and Driskols seriously discussing the situation. They had ventured their all in the cattle speculation, and to abandon them to the mercy of the red devils was an alternative hard to contemplate. But what could four men and a boy do opposed by hundreds of blood thirsty savages? Under all the circumstances, it was finally determined to embrace the first opportunity of getting out of the country. Our lives, they argued–I had no say–were worth more than cattle. Besides, we could not save the cattle cooped up in a stone fort as we were. We knew that the news would be carried to Walla Walla and that returning miners would travel in strong parties.

A few days later a company of forty or fifty men came along, and as they were well armed, we determined to join them. The two men at the ferry also abandoned the place and went with us.

I omitted to say that Wall Cushman, one of the owners of the ferry, had gone below some time before my arrival there, and I had no opportunity of renewing my acquaintance of the spring before.

We arrived at the Dalles without incident worthy of mention. There I sold my horse, saddle and bridle, rifle and revolver to a man who said he was going on a prospecting expedition, and took a Columbia River steamer to Portland. As horses and arms were in demand, not much trouble was experienced in selling, and most of the company with which I was traveling made similar disposition of their “outfits.”

Going down the river, Zim Smith, who was quite a talker, told the story of the goose in my presence and in the presence of a crowd. I was terribly mortified, and informed his brother that “Zim was making fun of me.” He laughed and mollified my feelings so far as to say, “Zim is only talking and means nothing by it.” “In fact, he thinks you are a great boy.” But I had made up my mind that I had seen enough of the wild life of the mines, mountains and plains; I would go home and attend school. No more Indians, miners, and rough men for me. I had seen and experienced enough, and was heartily sick of it all. I had experienced a “Call of the Wild” and was satisfied. And I want to say to my young readers again, whenever you experience a similar call–don’t.

The trip home was made mostly on foot, the great flood of the early winter of 1861-2 having washed out bridges and roads, seriously interfering with stage travel. An occasional boat made trips as far as Albany and Corvallis, but we failed to make proper connections. Hence from Oregon City to Albany we traveled on foot, but it was a weary journey in the mud.

Here, if the reader will pardon a digression, I will relate a little anecdote illustrative of the times. We were passing through French Prairie in Marion County. The spot, one of the richest and most beautiful in all Oregon, derived its name from the fact that it was settled principally by Canadian French, employees of the Hudson Bay Company. They were typical frontiersmen, hospitable and generous to a degree. We had asked at several farm houses for accommodations for the night, but there was so much travel that all were full and running over. Our party consisted of six, the Driskols, Smiths, Ben Allen and myself. Trudging through the mud, all were tired and hungry. As we neared the upper edge of French Prairie, Ben Allen remarked that he had an old friend, a Frenchman, and he was satisfied we would be welcomed to his home. He lived nearly a mile off the road, but that was better than walking to Salem, six or seven miles. Accordingly, we turned off to the home of Ben’s friend. The old Frenchman received us with open arms. He was simply delighted and gave us the best of everything the house afforded. In fact, the old man fairly danced with delight that “Bin” and his friends had paid him a visit.

Seated in home-made rocking chairs, before an open fire place in which was a roaring fire of oak logs, it was, as Zim Smith expressed it, “solid comfort.” Finally supper was announced, and the announcement was never more welcome than to that hungry crowd. Besides ham, vegetables and other accompaniments of a farm house dinner, there was a certain stew with dumplings. This was an especially toothsome dish, and all partook freely and with relish. As we neared the end of the meal our host exclaimed, addressing Mr. Allen:

“Well, Bin, how did you like the cat!”

“Cat, h–l” said Ben.

“Oh, yes Bin, he very fine cat. We fatten him three week.”

Somehow, our dinner came to a sudden close. Urged by our host to have more, all politely declined, “Bin” saying it was very good, indeed, but he had eaten heartily and didn’t care for more.

The next morning we bade our hospitable host adieu, before breakfast, saying we were anxious to get to Salem as we expected to catch a boat for Albany, Corvallis or possibly Eugene City.

That was the first cat I ever ate and since that time I have eaten bear, wild cat, horse, mule, but as a matter of fact, I never ate a more toothsome dish than the old Frenchman’s cat–until I discovered it was cat. Hence I am inclined to the opinion that it is all a matter of education.

I arrived at home after Christmas and during the rest of the winter attended the district school. Had I been told that that little district school was destined to be the last I should ever attend, I possibly should have better applied myself to my studies. I remained on the farm that summer assisting in the general work. In the fall of 1862, Joaquin Miller and Anthony Noltner started the “Herald,” a weekly newspaper, at Eugene City. Instead of going to school, as my father wished, I applied for and obtained a position as “devil” in the office. Mr. Noltner was of the opinion that the name was very appropriate in my case. However, I soon gained the confidence and esteem of my employers. As evidence of this, I remained three years, and during the time did not lose three days, that is, if we except the several occasions when for a week or two, the Herald was “excluded from the United States mails for disloyal utterances.” Publication would be suspended for a week or so and then come out under another name. The columns would be filled with news and “strictly literary matter” for a short time. Then Mr. Miller would launch out and give expression to his opinion on things in general and certain politicians in particular. After a few weeks something said would incur the displeasure of the postmaster, and we would then have to begin all over under a new name. And do you know, I grieve to admit it now, but those little vacations came so regularly that I began to enjoy them–I could go hunting.

Thus Miller and Noltner struggled along, issuing their publication under three or four different names. There was talk at different times of providing Mr. Miller a residence at Fort Alcatraz, with board and lodging at the expense of the U. S. Government. Now, I may be “telling tales out of school” but there are few left to care, save Mr. Miller and the writer, and I trust that “Heinie” will pardon me in thus living over the stirring times of our youth.

In the spring of 1864, I think it was, Mr. Miller sold his interest in the paper to his partner, Mr. Noltner. After that the office had few charms for me, and more and more my spirits bent to a “Call to the Wild.” This feeling became the more pronounced by reason of a little misunderstanding with Major Rinehart who commanded the troops at that time stationed at Eugene City. The circumstances leading up to the “misunderstanding,” briefly are that a friend, Henry Mulkey, had been arrested for a political offense by order of Major Rinehart, and it had been determined to send him to Ft. Vancouver and possibly to Alcatraz. I went to Major Rinehart’s headquarters and applied for a pass to see Mr. Mulkey. That I played good-goody–lied like a tombstone in order to get the pass, is not necessary here to state, but I got it and arranged an escape with Mulkey. That the arrangement miscarried was due to Mr. Mulkey, and not to the prudence of Major Rinehart or the failure upon my part to carry out the program.

Be that as it may. Mulkey was re-captured, and my own arrest was ordered. A little boy, God bless him, overheard Major Rinehart give the order to Lieutenant Tichnor, and ran and told me. Now, I did not relish the idea of a residence either at Ft. Vancouver or Alcatraz–nor did I know how long it would last. Consequently I leaped upon the best horse I saw standing hitched to the Court House fence and rode out of town, sending the horse and saddle back by a son of “Uncle Jimmie” Howard. That boy is now a Baptist minister and I seriously question if he would now accommodate me so far as to return a “lifted horse.”

Under all the circumstances, I concluded to absent myself permanently– at least until Major Rinehart’s soldiers should move on. Securing an “outfit” I joined a small company in the mountains, crossing the Cascades by McKinzie Pass.

Chapter V.

Taking Revenge on Marauding Snakes.

On reaching the east side of the mountains, it became necessary to travel in the night, at least through the open country between the Deschutes and Bridge Creek. The Snake Indians were raiding the country, and encumbered as we were with a small pack train, and with only a small company, we deemed that plan safest. During the day a careful guard was kept out and no fires lit. We thus passed safely through the dangerous country to Bridge Creek. We arrived there in the morning and finding quite a company from the Dalles, concluded to “lay by” a day or two and rest our animals.

About 3 o’clock that evening we saw a horseman coming, and riding as if his life were at stake. Coming up, the horseman proved to be Jim Clark, who informed us that the Indians would be upon us in a few minutes and that they had killed his brother-in-law, George Masterson, a lad of 18 years. Horses were at once rounded up and preparations made for defense. While the horses were being driven in, Clark related the circumstances, which left a doubt in our minds as to the fate of young Masterson. Accordingly, and as quickly as possible, every man that could be spared from camp saddled his horse and started back with Clark, either to save the boy or avenge his death.

The circumstances, as related by Clark, were that he and the boy had left the house, afterwards known as the “Burnt Ranch” for a load of fire wood. The house was located on the John Day River about a mile below the mouth of Bridge Creek. Opposite the house the river makes a sudden bend around the point of a high mountain, where the action of water and erosion of time had washed away the base of the mountain leaving a precipitous cliff, hundreds of feet high. Under this cliff a great amount of drift wood has been deposited, and here Jim Clark went for his fire wood. The high bank of the river next the house, which was 600 yards away, had been cut down so as to give an easy grade for loaded wagons. Clark said for the first time they had left their rifles and other arms at the house, immunity from attack rendering them careless.

While loading the wagon they happened to look towards the house, which was in plain view, and saw it in flames. They could also see the Indians around the house. Now the only means of escape was crossing the river, the way they had come. The mountains rose hundreds of feet perpendicularly at their backs, rendering escape impossible in that direction. Hastily cutting the harness from the horses they mounted, and Clark, who was a cool headed man in danger, and brave as a lion withal, told the boy to follow him. As they plunged into the ford they saw a number of Indians lined upon the opposite bank. But it was the only alternative, and the Indians thinking the two men were charging them, ran back out of sight. As they emerged from the river, which here was a shallow ripple, and started up the cut in the bank, the Indians discovered they were unarmed and attempted to close in on them. However, Clark and the boy had reached the top of the bank, and turning their horses up the river towards the mouth of Bridge Creek, sped for dear life.

As soon as they had passed beyond the reach of the bullets and arrows of the savages, Clark tried to persuade the boy to hold up and save his horse. The boy, however, was thoroughly frightened and drove his horse to the top of his speed. Clark, meanwhile, had looked back and saw the Indians mounting, and now began a race, on one side for life, on the other for scalps. The race was prolonged scarcely two miles when young Masterson’s horse began to fail. He was then a quarter of a mile ahead of Clark, who, nursing his horse, kept just beyond reach of the bullets. Gradually the gap between Clark and the boy narrowed, and slowly the Indians began to gain. At last Clark rode up beside the boy whose horse was thoroughly spent. He remained beside him until an Indian, riding a black horse, Clark said, ran up within twenty feet of him. The boy saw him raise his gun, and throwing himself from his horse with the exclamation, “O, Lord,” was lost to view in the dust. The Indian was at least fifty yards ahead of the others and did not stop to kill the boy, probably leaving him for those behind. Sure of Clark, he kept on, his black and savage heart leaping with joy in anticipation of torturing him.

After tolling the Indian some little distance and coming to a turn in the road, Clark let his horse out and did not slacken his speed until our camp was reached.

As may be well imagined, we did not spare our horses on the return, Clark having been provided with a fresh animal. But it was six or seven miles back to where Masterson left his horse. When we arrived there the search began. But failing to find the body, the awful possibility began to dawn upon us that he had been captured alive. Clark was wild. Had he found the dead body of the boy, it would have been nothing compared to the thought of his capture alive and death at the stake. A search now began for the trail of the Indians, as they had evidently left before our approach. But while this was going on, some of the men found the boy under a bank, shielded from sight by over-hanging earth and matted roots. When pulled out he was more dead than alive, his long bath in the water rendering him practically helpless.

When sufficiently revived, he told us that when he threw himself from his horse, he leaped into the brush, and coming to the creek, a small stream, ran down until he saw the overhanging bank. He said several times the Indians in their search for him were within a few feet of him.

After finding of young Masterson, we returned to camp. Clark had lost a great deal of property, besides that which had been consumed in his burned home. He was positive the party did not comprise more than fifteen or twenty warriors. He begged us to help him recover his property, or to at least get revenge. Accordingly Perry Maupin, John Atterbury, myself and three others, whose names I cannot now recall, volunteered for the undertaking, making seven in all.

Getting off at daybreak we struck the trail of the Indians and followed as fast as the nature of the country would permit. In places the trail was very dim, and this occasioned considerable delay, but just about sunset the camp of the savages was located. As night was now upon us, it was deemed best to await until daylight to make the attack. We were satisfied they would remain until morning, probably feasting on some of the stolen stock. They were camped on the west branch of Trout Creek about one mile above the forks. Their position was two hundred yards from the creek at a spring, and surrounded by a few scattering willows and quaking asps. On every side was open ground, with a high, bald mountain on the north side, and presenting a splendid opportunity for attack. The location of the camp also indicated that they felt secure from pursuit. Everything being settled, both as to the manner of approach and point of attack, we withdrew and awaited the coming of morning. Unsaddling our horses and picketing them, a portion lay down in an effort to get some sleep, the others standing guard.

At 3 o’clock we saddled our horses and by taking a circuitous route were enabled to approach the camp from the southwest side, and by following a slight depression in the ground reached a point within 150 yards of where the savages rested in fancied security. To prevent the possibility of arousing them by any accidental noise, we had dismounted some distance back, and carefully led our horses by the head, lest a stumble or neigh might discover us to the enemy. It was yet dark when we reached a spot opposite the camp, and standing at our horses’ heads, impatiently awaited the dawn. Streaks of light soon began shooting through the eastern sky, but it seemed an eternity before we could see well enough to shoot. Any one who has ever experienced waiting under similar circumstances will appreciate our impatience and the slow passage of time.

But daylight came at last, and swinging into our saddles, we formed in line and slowly, cautiously advanced. As our heads rose above the slight elevation that had obscured the camp, our revolvers in hand, we spurred our horses into a run and began yelling like furies. Scarcely had we done so when several Indians sprang up and rushed towards us with hands up and calling at the top of their voices:

“Warm Springs! Warm Springs! Wascos, Wascos!”

They were calling in jargon, and recognizing them as friendly Indians, and not Snakes and therefore enemies, both Jim Clark and Perry Maupin called out, “For God’s sake, boys, don’t shoot!” We halted among them without firing a shot. They then related to us their story. They were camped at the place hunting when the Snakes came upon them about 1 o’clock the previous evening. A skirmish had taken place, but without serious consequences on either side, when the Snakes made overtures for peace, saying they did not want to fight them, that they were only enemies of the white man. They proposed, in order to settle the terms of peace, that the two chiefs, Polina, or as some give the name, Penina, chief of the Snakes, and Queapama, chief of the Warm Springs and Wascos, should meet half way alone and unarmed.

All the Warm Springs earnestly opposed the meeting, feeling certain that treachery was meditated. But Queapama believed otherwise, and the two chiefs, in sight of their people, went out to the meeting. Scarcely had Queapama reached the Snake chief when he was treacherously murdered by a concealed assassin. Burning for revenge, the Warm Springs renewed the fight, when the Snakes drew off and were seen no more.

They now volunteered to go with us in pursuit of the Snakes, who, they declared, could not be many hours ahead. The Snakes, they argued, could be easily overtaken as they were practically in their own country and would travel leisurely. We knew the two tribes were traditional enemies and the presence of their dead chief was evidence that their friendship for us could be relied upon. The Warm Springs, however, held the Snakes in great dread and never ventured far into their country. The present camp was on neutral territory, and was the main hunting grounds of the former tribe. Polina was especially dreaded, and was believed by the Warm Springs to be bullet-proof. Many told of having shot him in the middle of the forehead, but that the bullet dropped down without injuring him. But may-be-so the white man had “good medicine” and could kill him. Although with such superstitious dread we did not value the aid of the Warm Springs very highly, yet we knew them to be good trailers and skillful scouts, hence their company was accepted, the more readily as we would soon enter the pine timber of the McKay mountains.

Accordingly, after filling our “cantenas” with dried venison from the camp of our allies, we again took the trail. Our horses were fresh and as the Warm Springs were such splendid trailers we made good progress, especially after entering the pine timber. The Indians acted also as scouts, skirting each side of the trail and keeping well in advance. No effort had here been made by the Snakes to cover their tracks, and we followed at a rapid pace. The trail led up the west branch of Trout creek and in a southerly direction. We had not gone more than four miles when we came to the camp of the night before. Their fires were still burning, showing their utter contempt for the Warm Springs. We followed up Trout creek to its head and passed through a low gap on to the head of McKay creek, which flows in a southwesterly direction to its junction with Crooked river. Just after passing the divide one on the scouts dropped back and informed us that the enemy was not far ahead. They said the grass cut by the hoofs of their ponies was as fresh as when growing. It was not thought advisable to overtake them in the timber until they had gone into camp. We therefore sent word ahead to proceed with great caution, and to keep well back from the trail. Proceeding now with the steathliness of a cat creeping upon a bird, the scouts kept well behind the ridges and only occasionally venturing to peep over a ridge or point into the creek bottom down which the Snakes were traveling.

About 3 o’clock they came back and announced that the Snakes had gone into camp about a mile or such a matter ahead. A council was now held to discuss the advisability of attacking them at once or waiting until morning. The Warm Springs were eager for an immediate attack. The camp was located in the edge of an open glade, presenting a splendid opportunity for a close approach. We naturally looked to Jim Clark as our leader and adviser, he being older and far more experienced than any of our party, unless it was our allies. Clark finally advised an immediate attack. “We are getting into the Snake territory, they might move again tonight and we would be compelled to go further on,” and, he declared, “we might bite off more than we can chew.” That settled the matter, and our allies were in high glee.

It was arranged that a portion of the Warm Spring should approach from the west, keeping well behind the hill, and at the moment of attack should stampede their horses, while we were to make a detour and approach at the point of timber nearest the camp.

After separating we turned to the left through the thick timber, keeping well behind the ridge until we were about opposite the camp. Here we dismounted and tied our horses in a thicket of firs. Silently, almost as shadows, we moved up the ridge and crossing over the crest began the descent through the woods, the moccasined feet of our dusky allies falling noiselessly upon the pine quills. We almost held our breath, lest the least noise, the accidental breaking of a twig, should startle the enemy. Though this was to be my first real Indian fight, I felt no fear and not so much excitement as when stalking my first buck. As we neared the edge of the wood and were almost prepared for the rush, the Indians on the other side raised the yell. Led on by their eagerness they had come into view of the camp and seeing they were discovered raised the war-whoop and made for the herd. The Snakes sprang to their weapons and started to save their horses. Concealment being now useless we burst out of the wood and opened fire. As we did so the savages turned down the creek and fled toward the nearest shelter. I remember dropping upon my left knee, and taking deliberate aim at a big fellow, fired. At the crack of the rifle he sprang into the air and fell, and I then knew I had made one “good siwash.” Springing to my feet I drew my revolver, a Colt’s navy, and kept with the crowd in a running fight until the Snakes reached the shelter of the woods. To have followed further would have been madness, notwithstanding they were thoroughly frightened and running, as one of the Warm Springs expressed it, “like klanacks” (black-tailed deer).

Jim Clark now called a halt. To follow further would result in some of us getting killed, as the Snakes would then have the advantage. Reloading our rifles we returned to count the result of our victory. We found four dead Indians, including one that had had his leg broken by a rifle ball and had been dispatched by our allies, who now proceeded to scalp the dead according to the usages and traditions of their race. It was a gory spectacle, and when they generously offered to divide the bloody trophies, we politely declined, saying the scalps belonged to them, as they had lost their great chief by the treachery of the dead Indians. The operation of lifting the scalp was a simple one. A knife was run around the head just above the ears and the skin peeled off. That was the first I ever saw, and I had no desire to see the operation repeated. Some of those that escaped must have been wounded, but we had no means of knowing the number of these.

The expedition had been partially successful, but keen regret was felt, not alone by our party, but by our allies, that old Polina had escaped. He was the scourge of the whites in all southeastern Oregon, and while he lived there could be no such thing as peace. He was reserved, however, for the rifle of Howard Maupin, father of the youth who was with us and was kneeling by my side when I fired at the fleeing savages. But that will be reserved for a future chapter. Besides killing four Indians we had captured a number of ponies and some of the stolen stock belonging to the whites. The ponies we gave to our friends, the Warm Springs, besides a captured gun. After destroying everything of value that we could not carry with us, including some camp effects, we returned to our horses and started back. We parted with our friends at their camp of the night before, who lost no time after their arrival there in packing up and, taking their dead chief with them, making haste to reach the reservation as soon as possible.

After bidding them adieu, we traveled on our return until daylight when we stopped, unsaddled our horses and picketed them to graze and rest for a couple of hours. Saddling up again we pushed on to Bridge Creek, where we arrived towards evening. We had been in the saddle now, with slight intermissions, for more than forty-eight hours, and rest and sleep were a most welcome boon. Our horses, too, were nearly spent, and here we remained to rest and recruit.

We remained at Bridge Creek several days, recruiting our horses and resting from the fatigues of our recent severe and trying expedition. In reading my simple narrative some may say we were taking desperate chances in following an enemy, outnumbering us several times, into his own country. That is true in a sense. But we had adopted his own tactics, and depended on a surprise. Had we come out in the open and shown ourselves, we would probably have fared badly in such an unequal contest. Secrecy, therefore, was our only safe course, and that required both skill and caution. We knew the Indians would be off their guard, that they would never dream of pursuit, and when surprised would scatter like a covey of quail. Another object was to come to close quarters as quickly as possible, so as to use our revolvers when the rifles had been emptied. Howard Maupin, an old Indian fighter, and father of the youth who accompanied us, once remarked that in “close quarters an Indian can’t hit the side of a barn.” I understood this when, years after in the first battle in the lava beds with the Modocs, I asked General Wheaton to signal to Colonel Bernard to cease firing and I would charge with the volunteers. We had them hemmed between two lines, with an intervening space of not more than 150 yards. He refused, saying we had lost too many men and the country would not justify the sacrifice of human life. We had fought them all day, and had suffered severely, and finally retreated under cover of darkness. It cost nearly three hundred men to close the Modoc war, including the life of the gallant General Canby. I believed then–I know now we could have whipped them in twenty minutes with the loss of less than a dozen men.

Chapter VI.

One Sad Tale From Canyon City History.

After a few days at Bridge Creek we joined a pack train going to Canyon City from The Dalles, and though the road was infested with savages, who mercilessly slaughtered small parties, we arrived at the then flourishing mining camp without mishap or adventure. Canyon City at that time was a typical mining camp. There were congregated every known character, race, profession and creed. Under a rough exterior the lawyer, doctor, minister, the rude western frontiersman and the staid and sober farmer, worked side by side. There was no distinction of dress among that restless, surging, throbbing throng of humanity, drawn thither by the all-absorbing motive–the glittering dust that lay hidden beneath the gravel and sands of the streams and along the ravines. The bond of sympathy, however, among the miners was close, and as warm hearts beat beneath the flannel shirts as ever throbbed in the breast of man.

Here, too, were congregated those human vultures that feed and fatten upon the frailties and follies of their fellowmen. The town proper numbered about six saloons to every legitimate business house. Of evenings the gambling hells were a glare of light, and music, both vocal and instrumental, floated out upon the streets to tempt the miners to enter, while away an hour, and incidentally part with their well-earned dust. Some of these hells had “lady waitresses,” poor, faded, blear-eyed creatures, in gaudy finery, and upon whose features was stamped the everlasting brand of God’s outlawry. These dens of iniquity were only too frequently the scene of awful tragedies, and the sawdust floors drank up the blood of many a poor unfortunate. If the encounter was between two gamblers the miners paid little attention. But if, as was often the case, some miner, crazed with an overdose of “double-distilled damnation,” fell a victim to the revolver or knife of a gambler, there was sure to be “something doing.” Among these restless, adventurous men there was a semblance of law, but its administration was too often a mockery and a farce. This, however, only applies to the early days of the camp.

One of the saddest of life’s tragedies is associated in my mind with an employee of one of these places. His name was Brown, and he was a musician of some merit. He had with him a young and beautiful wife and infant daughter. He played the violin at night and received $10 for each of the seven nights of the week. He was a man of good morals as far as could be observed, and sober withal. One morning he left the saloon at 2 o’clock, as was his custom. From the moment he passed out of the door he disappeared from the sight of men as effectually as the light of an extinguished candle. He was popular and had not a known enemy in the world. But whether he was murdered and his body concealed, or whether he left the country, remained an unsolved mystery. The latter theory had few or no adherents, as he was tenderly attached to his wife and child. Be that as it may. Soon after the disappearance of the musician, a young physician, who was handsome, accomplished, and talented, made his advent into Canyon City. In due time he became interested in the comely widow, and when sufficient time had elapsed, and no tidings came back of the missing husband and father, legal steps were taken, a divorce secured and the young physician made the widow his wife. As years rolled away and the mines “played out,” the Doctor and his wife and little girl moved to a town in the Willamette valley. There he prospered, gaining not only gold but that which is far more precious the love and respect of his fellow-man, and, being a public-spirited man, he took an active interest in political and other public matters. In the campaign of 1874 he received the nomination from his party for State Senator. His election was a foregone conclusion, as his party had not only a majority of votes, but his talents as a speaker and his popularity among all classes were in his favor. About that time, however, the exposures regarding the past life of Senator John H. Mitchell were given to the world by the press of Oregon. To offset the charges, there were dark hints and innuendoes thrown out about the disappearance of Brown and the subsequent marriage of the widow to the young doctor. The talk was easily silenced, as it was shown that the doctor came to Canyon City after Brown’s disappearance; but it was enough to sting the proud, sensitive heart of the young man to the quick. The mere fact that a suspicion of dishonor attached to his name was sufficient to cause him to withdraw from public life forever. As an orator he had few equals and no superiors, and only for his innocent connection with the Brown tragedy at Canyon City would have achieved a name the equal of that of his distinguished brother, Senator and Vice-President Hendricks of Indiana.

Dr. Hendricks and his wife have long since passed over the river, to the white walled city of God. And there, let us hope, their rest will be eternal, and that the poison tongue of slander will come not to blast, to blacken and to sting.

I remained at Canyon City and vicinity until September and then returned to the valley. During the summer and fall many depredations were committed by Indians. A party of eight men prospecting in the mountains to the west were surprised and all killed. Every one had died apparently in his bed. The little stream, a tributary of the south John Day river, was ever after known as “Murderers’ Creek.” The next year, I think it was, Joaquin Miller, then judge of Grant county, led a company of a hundred miners against the Snakes in Harney valley. He was joined by Lieutenant, now Judge Waymire of Oakland, in command of a troop of U. S. volunteers. They were repulsed with some loss and returned without accomplishing anything of importance. The war dragged along until the summer of 1867, when Chief Polina led a band of warriors into the John Day country north of Bridge Creek, where they robbed a settler named Clarno of a number of cattle and horses and started back. Howard Maupin then lived at Antelope valley, 15 miles from the Clarno place. The Indians attempted to capture his horses in the night, but were frustrated by the watchfulness of the dogs that gave the alarm. The horses were corralled, and Maupin and his son and a young German stood guard all night. The next morning Jim Clark and John Attebury arrived at the station, and it was determined to follow and punish the Indians and recover the stolen stock. They followed the trail into the rough brakes of Trout Creek and located the camp. The Indians had halted in a small basin on the mountain side through which ran a small branch, bordered with willows, where they had killed an ox and were enjoying a feast. The five men approached as near as possible and then leaving their horses made their way up the ravine upon which the unsuspecting savages were camped. Howard Maupin was armed with a Henry rifle, a present to the old hero from General George Crook. Silently the men made their way up the rough and rugged ravine until they lay concealed seventy yards away. Taking deadly aim the five men fired, killing four Indians. The Indians fled to the protection of a rugged cliff of rocks, but Maupin’s rifle kept following them with deadly effect. One Indian was picked out as the chief and fell at the crack of the rifle. He raised on his hands and halloed to the others until they reached the shelter of the rocks. It required two more shots to finish him, and thus died Polina, or Penina, the leader of the Snakes and scourge of the white man. The shot from Howard Maupin’s repeating rifle closed the Snake, or Shoshone war, and peace reigned until their great uprising under Chief Egan in 1877.

For a year or more, or until the spring of 1868, I followed the hum-drum life of a printer. A call of duty compelled me to lay all else aside to care for an invalid brother, Judge J. M. Thompson. He was dying of chronic dyspepsia. Physicians had given him up. He was a mere shadow, and while we had little hope of recovery, we determined to take him into the mountains. As soon, therefore, as spring opened we made our preparations. Our provisions consisted of unbolted flour and salt. Nothing else was taken–no tea, coffee, or indeed anything else save our bedding, guns and ammunition. We journeyed up the McKinzie fork of the Willamette. Game was everywhere abundant and this and bread baked from our flour constituted our only food. It was going back to nature.

A week or so after we arrived at our camp, my younger brother killed a very large bear that had just come out of his hibernating quarters and was as fat as a corn fed Ohio porker. An old hunter endeavored to persuade my brother to eat some of the fat bear meat, assuring him it would not make him sick. Now, grease was his special aversion, and to grease the oven with any kind of fat caused him to spit up his food. Finally, to please the old hunter, he ate a small piece of fat bear meat. Very much to his surprise, it did not make him sick. The next meal he ate more, and after that all he wanted. He gained flesh and strength rapidly, and it was but a short time until he could walk a hundred yards without assistance. After that his recovery was rapid and sure.

Now, high up on the McKinzie we were told of a hot spring, and that vast herds of elk and deer came there daily to lick the salt that was precipitated on the rocks by the hot water. We determined to move there. But when we arrived we found a rushing, roaring, turbulent river, 75 yards wide, between us and the hot spring. The deer and elk were there all right, the great antlered monarchs tossing their heads in play, but safe as if miles away. In vain we sought a narrow place where we could fell a tree. We found, however, a spot where the water was smooth, though swift as a mill-race, and we determined to make a canoe. Accordingly we set to work, and after many tedious days laboring with one axe and fire our canoe was completed. I was something of an expert in the management of a canoe and when it had been placed in the river, made a trip across. It was a success, and delighted with our achievement, we began ferrying over our effects. One after another, everything but our clothing and cooking utensils were ferried over, provisions, that is, the flour and salt, rifles, ammunition, bedding, in fact all but the above articles. My younger brother was assisting me with the canoe, and the last trip with the last load was being made. Like the pitcher that goes often to the well, immunity had bred carelessness, with the result that the boat was turned over in the middle of the river, and we only saved our lives by swimming. That night we camped beneath the forest giants. A good fire was lighted, bread made on a piece of cedar bark and meat cooked on a stick and eaten out of our fingers. That was indeed getting back to nature, but a more dire misfortune was to befall me the first night. As before stated, we had pitched our camp beneath the shelter of forest giants. Age after age the quills had been falling, forming a mould several inches thick. Before retiring that night I laid my solitary pair of trousers and drawers on the ground before the fire to dry out by morning. They dried. I awoke in the middle of the night to find that my last garments had been consumed, leaving but the waistband of my trousers. The mould slowly dried, the fire had followed, leaving me about the most forlorn individual that ever was blessed with white hide. Now that was going back to nature with a vengeance. In front rushed a roaring, foaming river, and relief was fifty miles away. But what was I to do, but simply do the best I could with a shirt and the waist-band of my trousers.

The next day we constructed a shelter of cedar bark in the event of rain. And now I am going to repeat a story at the risk of being denounced as a “nature fakir.” We had with us a band of dogs, trained for hunting. There were seventeen, all told, and of every breed, but with a mixture of bloodhound to give the “staying qualities.” We, or rather I, had borrowed them of settlers living on the river fifty miles below. They would chase a bear or cougar all day, and if treed, would remain and bay around the tree until I came. The second night in camp an immense timber wolf came up close to camp and gave a prolonged howl. The dogs all broke away, but they came back faster than they went out. The wolf followed and caught one of them, a large, full-grown dog, and gave him one bite behind the shoulder. The dog gave one yelp and when we reached the spot, ten feet from our bed, he was dead. To make sure that the dog was bitten but once, the next morning I partly skinned him and found that the ribs were crushed and broken. Now if a timber wolf can kill a dog with one bite on the back, why not a young caribou at one bite on the breast? That question I leave to others to solve.

But to return to my forlorn and altogether ridiculous situation. With needle and thread it would have been an easy matter to manufacture a pair of buckskin pantaloons such as I had worn in years gone by and would have welcomed in my present predicament. But needles, thread, scissors, razor and combs had followed the cooking utensils to the bottom of the river. There was nothing to do but simply to “grin and bear it,” and I did so with the best possible grace. On an exploring expedition one day I found a tall tree on the bank of the river at a spot where the channel was contracted between narrow banks. I had no axe and therefore set to work to burn it down, but it was a weary task. Day after day I tended that fire, keeping in the shade to avoid the hot rays of the sun, and after six weeks of waiting had the satisfaction of seeing the tree spanning the river, and affording me a means of reaching clothing. But I could not go to the settlements clothed like the Georgia Major, minus the spurs. During the period of waiting for the tree to fall, I had made a needle of bone and taking an empty flour sack proceeded to manufacture a pair of legs which, with infinite pains, I stitched to the waistband of my long lost trousers and added wooden pegs to insure stability and strength to the flimsy ravelings. In order to form a fair idea of my appearance, one must imagine a youth with a six weeks’ growth of hair and beard, a shirt that had to be taken off once a week to wash, a black band around his waist, to which was stitched and pegged parts of flour sacks. I say, imagine all this and you can form some idea of a youth who, under ordinary circumstances, was rather proud of his good looks. My brothers called me “Robinson Crusoe,” and I imagine the resemblance between the unlucky sailor, marooned on an island, and a wretched young fellow marooned in the depths of the Cascade mountains without clothing enough to hide his nakedness, was not an inapt comparison.

However, I was now happy. A tree spanned the river and parts of flour sacks covered my limbs, and I would go to Mr. Allen’s place, sixty miles below and get my clothing. Crossing the river, however, I discovered that our horses, left in a prairie, had “skipped out.” I knew they would be caught at Mr. Allen’s place, and the next day I started out. All the dogs followed. They seemed to have an antipathy for my brothers, and, try as they would, they could not make friends with them. Indeed, I have observed through life that children and dogs have an affinity for me. I started in the morning and made about 35 miles the first day, camping and sleeping beside a fallen tree against which I kindled a big fire. After a breakfast of cold bread and venison roasted on a stick, I started on the final lap of my journey. About a mile from Mr. Allen’s home is a spot known to campers as “Rock House,” where the mountains