A visit with Mrs. Walter S. Fields at her home in Canyon City, Oregon,
Friday afternoon, February 08, 1952. There were present besides the
reporter, Mrs. Fields' daughter, Mrs. Zena Ailerts of Mount Vernon and
Mrs. Maude Truesdell of Canyon City.
Mrs. Fields: My name is Jennie Eliza Fields and I was born in Harney, -
I was the first white child born in Harney. Harney was in Grant County
then - it was all one county from Harney to The Dalles. I was born there
in 1868, April 10 (laughing) - I was telling my age, pretty close!
My father's name was Martin Anderson Lucas and my mother's name was Anna
Walker Lucas, and they were both born in Ireland. My father was born in
Tyrone County and my mother was born in Belfast, Ireland. When they
crossed the ocean to come to this country, my mother brought her sister
with them. She didn't live very long - just lived a short time and died,
and mother was left alone. And mother and dad got married in New York.
Papa enlisted as a soldier when he was 18 years old, and his folks didn't
want him to enlist but he did anyway - boys won't mind anyhow. So, he
enlisted and came out to this country and mother came behind him. They
came on the boat around the Horn. Mother said she had a hazardous time
coming out. I don't remember her telling of any special incident. They
both came around the Horn. They were traveling for Eastern Oregon,
wherever the soldiers were going.
First they went to Camp Watson where my father was stationed when they
first came in. Camp Watson is down on the Deschutes River. It is still
there and is called camp Watson yet. And then my brother was born, my
oldest brother, was born and died there, and was buried at Camp Watson.
And after that Dad was transferred to Camp Harney, and they were there
for quite awhile and I was born there.
Papa told us quite a few things. He was a carpenter too, and they built
a bridge across Silvies River. I can remember that as well as can be.
He said the very night they finished that bridge, the Indians burned it
out - across Silvies River. And that was just after I was born. And
then they decided to form a posse and get rid of the Indians. So,
Slaughter Mountain, the other side of Burns - that is what they
call it now - they went there the next morning after the Indians had
burned the bridge out, formed a posse and killed every Indian that stuck
his head out of the tent, every Indian that came out. And there was one
little Indian boy, you might remember him - Jimmy Vazu - they were going
to shoot him and Billy Bonham said, "Don't shoot him, I am going to take
the kid and raise him." They captured him and Billy Bonham took and raised
him as his own kid and I went to school with him when we went to school
up in Canyon; and he raised him and after he died he give all of his
belongings to Jimmy. He was a wonderful Indian. He was trained by the
whites and knew lots, and lots of ways, but he never talked broken
language at all. He was an awfully good boy. And then, after Billy
moved down the river to Mount Vernon - he lived here but him and his wife
were separated and he left here and went away and took Jimmy with him, and
that was the only one of his family he took with him. You know, Minnie
Bonham is his daughter and that girl that was killed at Mount Vernon, she
was a daughter of his too. And then, one of the girls was married to -
what was his name? You know, Maude.
Mrs. Truesdell: Who was Lewis Bonham?
Mrs. Fields: That was another set of them. Then, you know, Lannie
Carson, she is Lottie Carson, she is Carlos Bonham's daughter. Ida
Harrison is another one. He is a brother to Billy Bonham and Martin
Bonham is a brother to them too - you know, he taught school here for years.
And, let's see, there is another Bonham - Lewis Bonham, but I think he was
a nephew or something, I don't think he was a brother to them at all.
You asked if they killed all the Indians? They killed women and children
and everyone of them; the little babies they just would take and hit them
on the rocks and kill them. I told Papa they were regular brutes, but he
said, "No, if you knew all the damage they had done." They killed two or
three families - the Smith family, they killed every one of them. They
killed two other families coming down over - what is that mountain the other
side of Burns - Steens Mountain. There was a family lived at the foot of
Steens Mountain and they killed every one of them, and I don't know how
many others - they killed quite a bunch. Then, finally, the soldiers went
back to Camp, after they had done all the "dirt" and they got orders to move
and they moved back to Ft. Stilacum and got discharged. My father was
discharged and after that moved to The Dalles and we were there quite a
little while and then moved to Canyon City and lived there the remainder of
As far as food, they lived a lot better in those days than they do now,
because we had something in the house to eat, and now lots of times you don't
have anything. (Laughing) Everything was brought in by team. My father
teamed after he got his discharge. He drove 8 and 10 horses to a big wagon
from The Dalles - to every place. It was hauled by wagon lots, freighter,
and you know people them days used to get everything by the barrel - coffee
by the barrel and sugar by the barrel and flour by the tons; they didn't
just get half a pound of flour and bacon. (Laughing) Then they bought by the
I never heard them say whether they had much amusement. I tell you, we would
have pumpkin pealing parties and all such stuff. We would get pumpkins and
string them on strings and dry them for the winter. I have pealed lots of
pumpkins. And we had candy pulls and all such stuff as that. That was
nearly all the amusement we had, and finally - who brought the first picture
show house in here? It was Henry Kuhl, when he run the drug store, that is
true. So, I tell you, we just used to have pretty good times. I haven't
had any good time for four years, I have been on crutches for four years.
In the early days we packed water from the creek. I remember that I used to
pack lots of water. The first time I disobeyed my mother, I went down to the
creek and was sliding on the ice and slipped - I missed my Christmas dinner
and didn't have a very good time. I know that there were several springs
around. There used to be the Lockwood Spring. We carried water from the
church spring here (St. Thomas Episcopal.) There were springs all along
that hill. There was a beautiful spring up from the place we lived; and
the old Powers place had quite a big spring.
At the time we came here, Canyon City was mostly Chinamen who mined the creek
all of the way down to John Day. They had a regular China town. They
commenced disappearing and going out of business, and the white settlers
started coming in and since then it has all been settled by the white people,
but otherwise mostly all miners - all of the old folks. There were lots of
old folks like Jim Whalen and Tommy Trenall, old Massnest, Mr. Sproul and
Mr. Baxter, and I just don't know how many others - and old George Martin up
Canyon Creek, and a man by the name of Hone. We had three hotels over here -
Mrs. Jack, old Nick and Sigar Daul (?) run one and Thompson and Groth the
other one; and Mrs. Linnie Grant's mother, Mrs. Chambers, had the other one;
there were two on this side and one on the other.
They used to have a big China New Years and everybody was invited and had
the grandest time that ever was. I have been to lots of them and my folks.
And after they commenced to abandon, first one white man would come in and
take a place and then another.
And I remember the first fire up town gulch, right about where - well, it
isn't right where Ruth Solinger is, but right between Ruth and Clara
Mulcare live, and his name was Castle. Charley Castle was living in the
house and the fire came and destroyed it, and he went to help carry the
piano out and got killed the very day he took it out. It fell - slid off
and fell on him - and killed him. They thought the fire had started from
They had an idea it was in one of these men's houses. The house across the
street was the first one that burned, on the other side. A man by the name
of Eads who used to live there and taught school, it started somewhere close
to him and then, you know, there was quite a few families lived up the gulch.
Oh, fiddle! The name leaves me just like water out of a bucket. The Graces,
they lived up there and the Eades and the Poindexters and Selgers and
Metchams lived up there, and who else - somebody else - that boy that killed
that man down on the river, what was his name? You ought to remember that,
Maude. It was during your time.
Mrs. Truesdell: You don't mean Arizona Barnes' son?
Mrs. Fields: No, down on the mountain. Oh fiddle! It will come to me
pretty quick - Billy Cowen, yes. He killed that - it wasn't Baxter - they
lived in the house right where Lou Solinger lives now, but I can't remember
We had doctors here, but they were kind of like quacks. Most of the women
were doctors around here. Yes, we had doctors. Maude, do you remember the
first doctor here? Doctor Horsley was the first and Dr. Howard. They were
the first doctors we had here. And then, the next doctor that came in here
was - I will think of his name in a minute - Ashford. He came right after
Horsley gave up his practice. He used to live where Betty Lowery lives.
And then Ashford moved into that house where Erma Bartlett used to own -
where George Fernand lives. And it wasn't long after that until Chilton
came in here, a young doctor.
I tell you, the first hanging was a man hung over the bridge. One morning
I was going down town after Dad and saw somebody hanging. I was just a
little bit of a tot. I saw somebody hanging and back home I went, pell mell.
I was just scared to death. I told Mom there was somebody hanging down there
on the bridge and Mom wouldn't believe me and so she took a walk down and
sure enough, they had hung him right there. I couldn't tell you what he had
done, I don't remember. And the next man hung was by the name of Way.
Maude, wasn't that the man's name - the next fellow - Way?
Mrs. Truedell: I don't know. What I know about that is just from hearing it,
and I don't remember it too well. I did a little reading -
Mrs. Fields: It seemed to me like the name was Way. Charley Addis was the
one that killed the man over in Rinehart's Saloon, but he wasn't hung. We
went to his trial and he wasn't hung. They turned him loose because they
were all drunk and were playing leap frog in the saloon and they jumped
over this fellow and broke his neck. Poor Charley Addis felt so bad about
that; my gracious alive, he was just broken all up, but his trial went on for
two or three days because we went to it; I was a little girl.
The day that McGinnis was hung it got as dark as could be and at four o'clock
you couldn't see your hand before you. That was the day he was hung. He was
hung over here in the courthouse yard - where the courthouse is being built
now, where it is going to be built - that is where it was, I know. Mrs. Wood,
Jennie Matlock Wood, and all of us walked up the creek and we couldn't hardly
see where we was going it was so dark, just awfully dark, and we stopped down
on old China steps and rested for awhile and finally decided we could come
back, as we decided they had left, and they were just coming from the cemetery.
I thought it was terrible to hang an innocent man. He was supposed to have
killed Bob Lockwood but he never did, Johnny Powers
killed him - another young fellow. It finally come out
before old lady Lockwood died, she told it. She said Johnny killed him.
But we have had lots of episodes around here of all kind, first one thing and
then the other.
In 1878, on the 22nd day of June, and it was on Sunday, and I was only ten
years old at that time, and we had a girl working for us, Jennie Powers.
My mother had just been confined, when she had Etta. We saw Dad coming up
the street on high. I thought, "My Gracious, what is happening?" I could
see people running up and down the street and across the bridge. He said,
"We are going to move mother to the tunnels up here." I said, "My gracious!"
And I said, "Dinner is right on the table." He said, "It don't make any
difference, we haven't time to stop, the Indians are coming right up the river
and killing everybody before them." We got ready and took mother to the tunnels.
After we were up there a couple of hours I decided to go back and clear up
the table, so I went down to home. Mrs. Kelly never went to the tunnels and
was sensible - more sensible than the rest. So, I went down and gathered all
of the dishes up and put the meat and stuff away, and hung my bird on the porch
where it wouldn't get hurt, and finally I saw Dad coming. I knew I was heading
for a thrashing, and he said, "What in the Hell are you doing down here?" I
said, "You left all of that stuff on the table and I don't want it all on the
table." He said, "You gather yourself up and get up that hill, they are
right at John Day now." Along in the night - nobody ever come - the men were
all prepared up along the ditch - the Humbolt Ditch. People were standing
up there with guns and around the mouth of the tunnels, and finally in the night
there a call for arms. Dad run out and got his gun - and, come to find out
the Staleys from up here on Dog Creek had come in, they were coming up to the
tunnels. They ordered them to halt and they halted, and they found it was
the Staleys. The Indians never did come to Canyon, they turned off at Cummings,
but they killed everybody that come along.
When they came by the Aldrich place, people used to buy syrup in the kegs, they
went into that house and of course they had a keg of syrup and the Indians
knocked the head of the keg in, and picked up a cat and stuck him in the
syrup and then ripped the feather bed and put him in and then turned him
loose and they howled to beat the band. How in the world did he manage?
They said he just ran off. After they had done all of this meanness, they
came up and killed Jim Small's two nephews who were herding sheep on the
road, and then everybody was to arms. Everybody around here was in the
Walter (Mr. Fields) was in a little old schoolhouse fixed around with logs
to keep it from being shot. (Mount Vernon)
So the Indians went right up Cummings' Creek and never come to Canyon at all.
I tell you it was an awful scare. My mother stayed in the tunnels 15 days
until time to bring her home. We were nearly famished when we got home and
as dirty as pigs and it was just terrible. So, we got home from the Indian
scare. Then it wasn't long until the soldiers were called to arms and went
to Long Creek and it was in the dead of winter, there was snow - I don't
know how many inches deep. They gathered all the Indians and put them in
covered wagons and brought them over the Long Creek Road - the Belshaw route
- from Long Creek and camped at Bill Luces on the river there nearly two
weeks and took them to Yakima - across the river at The Dalles, into Yakima,
and that was the end. They put them on a reservation, and that was the end
of the Indian scare. Everybody went from twon to see the Indians and they
were a funny looking bunch. Some had good enough clothes on, but had old
blankets on them, just like they used to wear. They come in on the Izee
side someplace, they came in through that way.
I remember the first musical instrument, an organ. It came in here to the
Pastime over on the other side, but I don't know who was funning the Pastime,
whether Mr. Horn or who. Someone, and they got an organ and then the next
one who got an organ was Johnny Howard. He got a piano over here, and then I
got an organ, and they had to be shipped in. An agent would come in. Mr.
Titus was the man that got the order for all of these instruments, he lived
at The Dalles; and this Brent down here in John Day, he was an agent for
pianos and organs and sewing machines; I remember I got my sewing machine
They had dances galore, everyone went to the dances and had a rollicking good
time. They took the children with them and they would fix them on benches
and they would sleep.
We had to make most all of our dresses and things were made by the families.
I know mother used to sew and my neighbors had to sew different things, but
we always were pretty well dressed. Of course we couldn't dress in silk and
satin like they do now, but we dressed, just the same.
I don't know whether the first church was the Episcopalian over here or if
it was the Methodist.
Mrs. Truesdell: The Episcopalian was built in 1876, but I don't know.
Mrs. Fields: I know Eads was the minister and Mr. Granis preached in that
church over there - it wasn't that one, but another one that has been built
since them, the Methodist. I think the Methodist was the first church in
Grant County, before the Episcopal church.
Mrs. Truesdell: This Episcopalian church has the name of being the second
oldest church in all the district; The Dalles claim theirs is a year or two
Mrs. Fields: The second fire was in '97 or '98, somewhere along there, it
took the whole town. I think a pan of hot grease or something was the
cause, they said. That was an awful fire, it took the whole country, didn't
it? There wasn't a house saved on Main Street, it took it all.
The last fire, I don't know what started that, oh, it started in the Beggs
Hotel, I know, Anna Lea and Buster Cresop were burned out, they were upstairs.
Mrs. Turesdell: It was started in the hotel, some room, I don't know that
they ever did know. Effie Brisbois was running it.
Mrs. Fields: My husband's name is Walter Scott Fields; my children were Irma
Anna Bartlet; Ritta died; and then next was Gertrude Pugh who lives in Baker;
and next is Zena Ailerts who lives in Mount Vernon; and my boy, Walter
Anderson Fields lives in Baker.
©1998 Roxann Gess Smith
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