VOL. II NOVEMBER, 1900
NO. 6 NATIVE SON PUB. CO.
The following account is from, Vol. II - November, 1900 issue of "Oregon Native Son Historical Magazine," Published in Portland, Oregon.
Our train was known as the Miller's train. We crossed the Missouri River at Council Bluffs on the third day of May, A. D., 1853. We passed over the site of the present town of Omaha, there being no human habitations there at the time, but a few Indian tepees. Nothing of extraordinary interest transpired with us until we reached the Loup Fork of the Platte River, where we had our first experience with ferrying a stream in our wagon boxes. We first drove our horses and cattle over, then a man swam the river, taking one end of a small line, to the other of which was attached one end of a large manila cable. The cable being hauled across the stream and fastened one end to a tree on each side, the crossing began. First the women and children, then the camping outfit, then the running gear of the wagons were transported across. There was brandy in the train for medicinal purposes. This some of the men indulged too freely in, and on the last trip over upset the wagon box and were drowned, the swift water carrying their bodies beyond the possibility of recovery. We traveled on without other incident worthy of mention until reaching some sand hills, where phantom ships with sails set and masts we encountered a terrific sand storm. We were in whirling, drifting sand for over three hours. It cut our faces and hands like knives. Proceeding to the Platte River, we traveled up the north bank of it, being in sight of Chimney Rock, the tall "Sentinel of the Plains," for eight or ten days. We were generally entertained at night with coyote concerts (admission free), but as a usual thing we were so fatigued that we said our prayers backwards, turned over on the other side, and went to sleep, when the music began.
We passed myriads of graves of the emigrants of the year before, 1852, who had died of the cholera. The wolves had dug up their bodies, eaten the flesh from the bones, and their grinning skeletons were bleaching in the sun for hundreds of miles along our line. We were often compelled to halt our teams and form a circle with our wagons around our stock to keep it from being stampeded by the buffalo, which crossed our track at intervals in herds of thousands, sounding like distant thunder as they rushed on with tremendous speed.
We were often deluded by mirage, sometimes seeing ahead of us the most beautiful lakes, upon whose bosom floated bending with the weight of a breeze which always seemed but a little pace ahead of us. We would hurry on, and when we imagined ourselves almost in reach of the water, the lake would disappear completely. This is no fairy tale, but too advanced a subject for me to attempt an explanation. The rarified air on the desert was another curious thing, a raven at a distance would look as tall as a man.
On our journey we passed by the celebrated Indepence [sic] Rock on the Sweetwater, whereon thousands of emigrants had carved their names. Independence Rock is near the Devil's Gate, where the Sweetwater runs for many miles under a mountain. It took us two nights and a day to cross the Great American Desert, and when we came in sight of Green River we imagined we had reached Paradise at last. When still a mile fronm the river we were compelled to unhitch our cattle from the wagons, lest they should haul them into the river, so frantic was our stock for lack of water.
We loitered at Green River two days to allow the washing to be done, and the stock to recuperate.
On the night of June 27, in the Bear River Valley, we experienced quite a storm, the snow falling to a depth of two inches, going off, however, by l0 o'clock the next day. One of the curiosities of our journey was the celebrated "Steamboat Springs," near Bear River, one hot enough to boil an egg in the allotted four minutes, and the other not a hundred feet away, with water of ice-cold temperature, each of them puffing and blowing like a steamboat.
From Steamboat Springs we went to Port Nueff River, near old Fort Hall, arriving there July 4th. At this point the mosquitoes were so bad we were compelled to build smudges, or smothered fires, for our cattle. Otherwise they could not have withstood the torture of the little pests. Our way from this point lay past the American and Shoshone Falls of Snake River, on to Burnt River, and thence over into the Powder River Valley.
On the Powder River I came across two former school mates of mine in Illinois, Eli Moore and Cribb Landreth. They had come out from the Willamette Valley to purchase cattle from the emigrants. I concluded to remain with them until they returned to the valley. While staying at this point the Driver family came along and camped near us, and Mrs. Driver, mother of Rev. I.D. Driver, died, and we buried her on the banks of the Powder River. One day while camped at this point, being in pos session of a Hudson's Bay Company salmon hook, I rode about fifteen miles
up the river to do some fishing. I soon
caught three fine large salmon. The
fourth one I hooked fell off into the edge of the water, and I threw myself
after it. In the ensuing scuffle we both rolled into the river. I received a good ducking and my pistol got wet, but I saved my salmon. Just as the four salmon had been secured to the saddle bow, and I was on the eve of mounting, four Snake Indians rode up, and, without ceremony, compelled me, at the point of their arrows, to deliver up my piscatorial catch to them. Badly chagrined at losing my fish, I mounted my mule and started off, when the Indians started after me; but I bluffed them off with my wet pistol, wandered on and reached home late, fully promising never to fish so far from home again.
About the first of October the cattle which my friends had purchased were started for the Willamette Valley. We crossed the Blue Mountains on the old Lee encampment road, and camped near where the City of Pendleton now stands. While here the Indians drove off some of our cattle at night, and the next morning came to us looking as innocent as doves and asked: "Conchi chick-a-mon mika potlatch spose nika iscum mika moos moos?" (which liberally interpreted means: How much money will you give if I get your cattle?) Five dollars was the price agreed on, and the cattle were soon in our possession again. It was an old trick of the Indians to steal horses and cattle and hold them in hiding until ransomed by the emigrants.
We crossed the Cascade Mountains to the old Barlow road. After we had arrived at Foster's, I bid my friends farewell, and rode on ahead of them into Oregon City, arriving there on October 20th, and stopping at the Main-Street House. On calling for something to eat, they gave me some poor salmon, weak tea, and "Blue John bread," which weighed a pound to the square inch. I slept on a wet straw bed, and for breakfast had about the same fare as the night before, and for two meals and the bed I was charged the modest sum of three dollars.
WORKING IN THE VALLEY.
From Oregon City I proceeded to Portland, and helped make a wagon road up the river as far as Oswego, and then went to work in a sawmill at the mouth of the Tualatin River. In March, 1854, I purchased a pony and went to Tin Pot Valley, five miles below Yoncalla, and was employed to carry the United States mail from there to Scottsburg, thirty-five miles down the Umpqua River. Scottsburg was at that time a lively little town. My route was down Elk Creek, passing by the old Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Umpqua, then owned by Colonel W. W. Chapman, and occupied by him and his family. On the other side of the river, passing on the way, Levin's, Cape Cod Butler's and Job Hatfield's places, and the bachelor ranch and shanty of S. F. Chadwick, afterwards Secretary of State.
I often met as many as a hundred packmules on the road, loaded with miners supplies, and bound for Yreka, Jacksonville, Crescent City and Althouse Creek.
Scottsburg had the following merchants at that time: Brown & Drumm, Ladd & Peters, Hinsdale. Jack Nickelson and George T. Allen. Most of the old merchants have crossed the divide. John Drumm died in California, Peters in Jacksonville, L.P. Brown in Mount Idaho, Bob Ladd in Portland, George Haines in Roseburg, and George T. Allen (of Allen & Lewis), I think in Portland.
On one trip from Scottsburg, in December, 1854, when I arrived at Elk Creek it was too high to cross, so I proceeded over the mountains by what was known as Tom Folly's trail. When I came to Tom Folly's Creek I found it so swollen that I carried my mail bag across on a fallen tree, and then attempted to drive my horse across, but he refused to be driven, so I mounted and spurred him into the stream. As soon as we reached swimming water the current carried him down stream so rapidly that, in order to save my own life, I grabbed a bunch of willows overhanging from the bank and left the horse to his own resources. I never heard of horse, saddle or bridle again. When satisfied that my horse had gone--the way of all good horses, I was about to say, I shouldered my mail and made my way through mud and water knee deep to Yoncalla, getting there late at night, very much fatigued, but exceedingly glad to be alive. But this is only an incident of the many hardships to be endured in those days.
I continued carrying the mail until October, 1855, when I was employed by one William Parker to drive a four-horse team to Dallas, Polk County, for a load of oats.
BECOMES A SOLDIER.
On arriving at Dallas, I found that the news had just been received that Agent Bolin, of the Yakima Indian Reservation had been murdered, and Governor Curry had called for volunteers to go to the Indian country. A company of one hundred and three men, known as Company G, First Regiment, Oregon Mounted Volunteers, was raised at Dallas, and I joined it.
The following officers were elected: Captain, A. N. Armstrong, First Lieutenant, Ben Hayden; Second Lieutenant, Dave Cosper; First Sergeant, W. L. Hayter; Second Sergeant, A. S. Cumagies; Third Sergeant, J. L. Martin; Fourth Sergeant, Samuel H. Tethron; First Corporal, Dick Smith; Second Corporal, Marcus Gilliam; Third Corporal, your humble servant. We left Dallas October 16th, marched to Portland, crossed the river, and camped in an oak grove just above what is now the east end of the Morrison-Street Bridge.
While camped here I learned to bake bread on a stick, a trick that stood me in hand many a time afterwards. The dough is made up in the mouth of the flour sack, then rolled around a stick, which is stuck in the ground near the fire, and the bread is left to bake; the stick being turned as often as required.
Leaving this camp, we marched to Vancouver, and were transported from there by steamers Fashon and Belle to the Lower Cascades. Disembarking there we marched across the portage to the Upper Cascades, where we camped for several days, waiting for transportation to The Dalles. While waiting we attended a dance at the Griswold House. The Griswold family were afterwards all, or nearly all, killed by the Indians. While at the Cascades we killed a hog, at least it resembled a hog, but its flesh was the color of salmon, and so impregnated with a fishy taste from feeding on salmon we had to discard it as an article of diet. Finally transports were procured in the shape of two small steamers, the Mary and the Wasco. On arrival at The Dalles, the battalion held an election, and our Captain being elected Major, Ben Hayden was chosen to succeed him as Captain of our company.
With little delay we left for the Yakima campaign. Our regiment was under the command of Colonel Nesmith, Major Armstrong being second in command.
We traveled through the Klickitat Valley, crossed the Simco Mountains, passed one of the battle-fields where Colonel Steptoe had been defeated, arriving in the evening at the Two Buttes near where the town of North Yakima now stands. Here we found the Indians massed on two bald hills between which the Yakima River runs. Within a short time they were driven from our side of the river, but they kept up such infernal yelling and screeching on the other side that Major Rains, who had arrived with his company of regulars and a brass mounted howitzer, ordered his gunners to turn loose and shell the Indian stronghold, across the river. The Indians became panic stricken at this unexpected attack, and retired from the hill, leaving three dead and two more wounded. We heard no more yelling that night.
The next morning we charged through the canyon up the Yakima River, where we found the Indians scattered all over the sage-brush plains. We had given them a good run for their money, and now chased them before us across the plains and into hiding in the Natchez Mountains. I was after a Yakima Indian, when our guide, old Cut Mouth John, over reached me and shot him with an old yager, putting a hole through him as large as a tin cup. After the Indian fell Old John scalped him, and secured his horse and gun. There were several other Indians killed that day.
We marched thence up the Wenatchee River, where we surprised and secured a band of three or four hundred Indian horses. After Arthur Chapman and Sam Fletcher, of my company, by order of the Colonel, had lassoed and secured some of the best, in order to prevent thc Indians from securing fresh horses to carry on the war, the remaining ones were shot. It seemed a frightful slaughter but they were all wild ponies, and we had little time to break them. Two days after killing the horses we had another little brush with the Indians, wherein Steve Waymire, of our company, was slightly wounded by a gunshot in the leg. After scouting around for several days we made our way by easy marches back to The Dalles, and the command went into camp on Three-Mile Creek, back of that point. Being rainy weather and the command without covering of any kind, one can imagine that our experiences were anything but pleasant ones.
One day Arthur Chapman and myself were detailed to take twenty-five or thirty horses into The Dalles and have them shod. When the shoer had completed the work and we were on the point of starting back for camp, we observed a large tent forty or fifty feet long, standing near by and belonging to the United States garrison, and we concluded to appropriate it in the name of the State of Oregon, and Ben Hayden, Captain. While Chapman watched the sentinel, I severed the "guy" ropes and "struck" the tent. Then, rolling it up, we each took an end on his horse and started for camp, where we arrived with our acqusition in good condition. When pitched it was found capacious enough to shelter our entire company. To say that it was appreciated by the men is putting it very mildly.
After a few days recuperation, we went on a scouting expedition, passed the Warm Springs, to the headwaters of the Des Chutes, and thence over to Lost River. There were few Indians to be seen on that expedition; in one little skirmish, however, we killed two Indians. Returning to The Dalles we moved camp to Ten Mile Creek, where we remained two weeks, watching Old Stock
Whittley, who at the time was giving the settlers considerable trouble; but he would never meet us with his braves. He was a sharp old "tilicum," and always managed to elude our efforts to "corral" him.
One night there was an alarm at the mouth of the Des Chutes River, and our horses being on the range under guard we were compelled to "hoof" it fifteen miles only to find that the Indians had vanished. Then, like Mr. Riley's command, "we marched down again," each one of us so darned mad he would have fought an acre of wild cats with his hands tied behind him.
When camp had been moved up the Columbia, near the mouth, of John Day River, the news reached us that a four days battle had been fought at Walla Walla between Colonel Kelly's command and the Indians. We moved camp to Fort Henrietta, on the Umatilla River. While there the thermometer registered 30 degrees below zero, some of our mules were frozen to death, and the men suffered very much. After the cold spell of weather we proceeded over to Walla Walla Valley, and thence to Red Wolf's Landing, on the Snake River, where we procured some fresh horses. While at the present site of Walla Walla we hung four Indians that were implicated in the murder of Indian Agent Bolin at the Yakima Reservation. We scouted the country from place to place until February, 1856, and then returned to The Dalles, where our company was mustered out of the service. I then joined Company B, Second Regiment, Oregon Mounted Volunteers, then in command of Captain B. F. Burch, Colonel Tom Cornelius being in command of the regiment.
The last of February we again started from The Dalles for the Palouse country. We scouted our way pretty thoroughly, and had a few skirmishes with the Indians. In the latter part of March, while encamped at Palouse Falls, we ran out of provisions, and for twenty-four days subsisted on poor horse meat, without salt or bread. Our bill of fare, day after day, was stewed horse
meat and wild onions. It was slim eating, but we were "out of meat."
From Palouse Falls we went to Snake River, taking with us two boats, which had been hauled to us with ox teams from The Dalles. Arriving at Snake River, the Indians were found encamped on the other side, but as soon as discovered they packed up their tepees and struck out. Swimming our horses across, two companies formed and gave chase, overtaking a few at White Bluffs on the Columbia, where three were killed, the others escaping across the river. Returning to Snake River, we found an Indian at least a hundred years old, in a little "dug-out," where he had been left to die. After giving him something to eat, we left him to his fate.
Crossing the Snake River we scouted through the Big Bend country, finding water very scarce. At one camp we found three dead horses in the Spring, and, after dragging them out, it took us until after midnight to water our horses and secure enough water to make some coffee.
The next day we suffered much from thirst, but finally reached the Yakima Valley by crossing the River at White Bluffs. We camped on the Yakima River one night, losing several horses. The next morning we moved camp to the mouth of Cottonwood Creek. Here Colonel Cornelius ordered George Zimmerman and myself back to the camp of the night before, to stay there until morning and then look for the lost horses. Arriving at the old camp after dark, we staked our mules and retired to rest. About midnight two Indian dogs came to our camp, and I assure my readers we felt very blue. At daybreak the next morning we struck out to look for our lost horses, expecting every moment to run into an Indian ambush. After riding several miles we saw a suspicious dust arising ahead of us, and started to return to where we had left the main command. Soon afterwards we observed a small party of Indians coming towards us, and our hair raised involuntarily on end. We spurred our mules to their greatest speed, but the Indians appeared to gain on us at every jump. We had about determined to give up the race and turn and face our pursuers, to sell our lives as dearly as passible, when, from some undiscovered cause, the Indians shifted their course and left us to ourselves. A few miles further on we found a note from Lieutenant Hutchinson of my company sticking on a sage bush, which said that the Indians had killed Captain Hembree, and for us to go to Cottonwood Creek and remain there until dark, then to follow up the creek at night, as the hills were alive with Indians. We forged ahead until we came in sight of our old camp, and, to our agreeable surprise, found the command still there. At the last moment the Colonel had ordered that no movement be attempted until we were heard of, dead or alive.
It appeared, that morning Captain Hembree, accompanied by about ten men had started up the side of the mountain from the Cottonwood, and when nearly a mile from camp, had engaged about seventy-five Indians, who had ridden over the ridge and cut him and his party off from the command.
The Indians killed the Captain, scalped him, stripped him, and relieved his pockets of $600 in gold, securing his rifle, two pistols, his mule, saddle, bridle and gold watch, and made away before the command could overtake them, so quickly was their work accomplished.
The day after Captain Hembree was killed we moved camp towards The Dalles, taking his body with us. Passing up Cottonwood Canyon, I was on the advance guard, and was riding by the side of Colonel Cornelius, when an Indian, ambushed behind a pine tree, fired on us. His shot cut the leather thong of my shot pouch and went through my vest, but doing no serious harm. After firing, he dodged from behind the trees and scampered off up the hill, trying to escape. I raised my rifle to fire at him, but the Colonel pushed it to one side, saying: "I claim that 'Injun,'" and almost simultaneously blazed away and brought the red devil down. He then ran up and scalped him. After losing his scalp the Indian rose to his feet, when the Colonel made a good Indian of him with a pistol ball through the brains. Meanwhile others of the command had not been idle, but had unearthed several Indians and taken their scalps.
We now crossed the Simcoe Mountains, marched through the Klickitat Valley, and went into camp about fifteen miles from The Dalles. Here I was taken down with mountain fever, and was transported to that embryo city and placed in a hospital. A day or two after my departure, the Indians made a dash and secured nearly all the horses and mules belonging to the command, leaving only a few of the poorest ones. This occurred on a cold morning, after the stock had been tied up all night and were shivering with cold. The Indians were in hiding at a convenient distance, and watching for an opportunity, as soon as the stock were turned loose, swept down and dashed between it and the herders and secured not only the loose stock, but a majority of the herders' own horses. The Indians started the stock on the run, and kept them so moving until out of danger. They captured some fine mules, worth on an average, $200 apiece, and many large American horses. This was a great loss to Oregon Territory and to the individuals who owned their own mounts. I lost a horse worth $I5O, and never received a cent for him.
When able to travel, I bid farewell to the hospital, and proceeded to Salem, where I was discharged.
In this connection I want to say that we were handicapped during the whole campaign for want of suitable horses to follow the hostile Indians. They had plenty of good mounts at all times, while the volunteers had only one horse each, which soon run down in flesh, and could not then keep pace with the Indians.
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My greatest appreciation to, Patricia Davidson-Peters
for contributing the conclusion of this wonderful narration.
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