On the sleepy banks of the Row River, near the Calapooia Mountains in western Oregon, by the town of Cottage Grove, was once a vibrant Kalapuyan village. Townsfolk on the early 20th century wrote in the newspaper that there were two communities of about 100 Native people in the area, the village on the Row River occupied by the family of Chief Halotish and the village at Pleasant Hill occupied by other “Pleasant Hill” Kalapuyans. They would travel back and forth and visit one another, attending summer camp meetings on the site of the heritage fairgrounds in Cottage Grove, while, other camp meetings were documented (in the Newspaper) to be held in Pleasant Hill as well, under the direction of Polk Scott. The natives were a welcome sight around town, were well liked, and were somewhat celebrities, the Fearn (Halo, Halotish) family in particular was a welcome presence.
In the 1850s, before removal of the tribes to the reservations, Chief Halotish was the headman of the village at the Row River, fairly close to Dorena. Cottage Grovians reported in the local paper that “…it is said that old Chief Cheomeeshun and his band at one time made their home just east of the Currin Bridge and it is said that the old fir under which the old Chief’s son Chief Halotish was born, still stands. The younger chief was well known to all of the early settlers.”
GLO Survey Fieldnotes 1854, Township 20 South~ “45.00 Chief Halotooths Indian Town 5 chains North”
Known as Chief Halo to many, he was a good friend to the Applegate family who lived over the Calapooia Range in Yoncalla. There, Halo and his family found work for many years helping the Applegates set up their homestead and care for the fields and animals. The Applegates grew so appreciative of their friendship that when the time came for Indian removal, in the winter of 1856, Halo refused to remove, and Robert Applegate defended the Halo family’s rights to stay in their lands, in fact placing himself in front of the Indian Agent’s gun.
After this stand-off, Halo and his family remained about the area, likely travelling back and forth between Yoncalla and Cottage Grove. It is unclear if the original village site was abandoned by the tribe because of settler land claims, but Halo appears to have returned and lived for long periods along the Row River, likely near the place he was born, just downriver from his childhood village site. While living on the Row River, Halo made an agreement with one of the homesteaders, a man named Walker homesteaded along the Row River, and they established a business arrangement fishing the river with a Native weir. “They constructed a crude fish trap on Row River. Mr. Walker took the catch one day, Halo Tish the next. Eels were a favorite food of the Indians, so Halo Tish took all of them. If Mr. Walker was too busy to go to the trap on his day, Halo Tish brought his fish to him.”
In this manner, Chief Halotish proved to be a man who made friends with the settlers and by doing so was allowed to remain in the area. Indians were not allowed to have donation land claims as they were not American citizens and those tribal people who escaped from the reservations to return home were normally gathered up and returned to the reservations at Siletz or Grand Ronde, after the local folks tired of their presence. Later, Halo’s sons did go to Grand Ronde to visit relatives, perhaps to stay a while, but there is no record that they were ever officially allotted there.
One record from the area of Oakridge, of the Charlie Tufti family of Kalapuyans, suggests that some enterprising Natives did find a way to get land. Local settlers helped Charlie Tufti gain a Donation Land claim on a hill near Oakridge. The Halo family, however, unable to gain a DLC lived on undeveloped farmlands at the behest of the settlers, normally paying their keep by helping around the homesteads. Many in the family did acquire off-reservation Indian allotments in about 1891 as a result of the Dawes Act (1887).
The pattern of living for most of the Kalapuyans in the Willamette and Umpqua valleys was to live with the settlers in peace. They would rather find a way to live in peace than have war. Peaceful relations with many other neighboring tribes, in the time before settlers, was an economic trading boon to the Kalapuyans as they would trade their camas for exotic Native products (and rare European-Asian artifacts) from other lands and other environments. But not all relations were positive for the Kalapuyans.
The following story took place in the Umpqua Basin and involved the Komemma (Yoncalla) Kalapuyans.
“Upon one occasion, so the legend goes, the Klamaths captured and took prisoner four young women, one of whom was a sister of Halotish, the others being sister of other young warriors of the tribe. The place where the battle was fought is said to have been on the ground southeast of the W.A. Kelly place near Dorena and between it and the mountain to the southeast.” (This same story is repeated by Jesse Applegate in his book the Yangolers.) The Cottage Grove newspaper extends the story a bit. This story of the Klamaths was said to have taken place in “1810… and when the Klamaths began heading home with the booty and the four fair redskinned maidens, Halotish organized a rescuing party consisting of himself and the three brothers of the captured maidens. At the time, so the legend goes, Rocky Point was a much higher promontory than at the present and extended out so close to the edge of Row River that there was barely room to pass between it and the river in single file. The Klamaths had to pass this point on their way back to their camping grounds on the other side of the mountains. Halotish was aware of this fact and knew a short cut that would bring them to this point ahead of the enemy. They climbed to the top of the point and assembled at its edge all the large rocks which they could gather before the arrival of the enemy. When the Klamaths were directly below the point the four Calapooia braves pushed the rocks over the cliff and the slaughter was such that consternation reigned among the Klamaths who ran for their lives, many of them jumping into the river where a number were killed by the arrows of the Calapooia braves, who then set upon the guard that was bringing up the rear with the captured young women, killed the guard and took the young women back to their tribe, where they lived happily ever after. The old chief would almost split his sides with laughter as he told of the killing of the Klamath braves.”
The Klamath were regular visitors to the western valleys, especially the Willamette Valley. They traveled the vaunted Klamath Trail into the southern Willamette Valley and would remain through the summertime, hunting elk, and visiting their friends and kin among the Northern and Santiam Molalla. In the story above, the Klamath and the Kalapuyans are not using horses to escape or pursue, so the event may have happened before the arrival of the horse in their region, sometime in the 18th century. In the 1840s and 1850s, there were many reports from Willamette Valley settlers of Klamath and Klickitat horse riders coming into the valley and traveling about, camping, hunting, and living off the rich resources of the valley.
In the 1830s, most of the Kalapuyans died of malaria, estimated to a toll of about 95% of their original population (Boyd 1999). The Kalapuyans, greatly reduced, could not defend their lands from encroachment by settlers and other tribes, and many turned to the goodwill of the settlers for protection. Indian Agent Joel Palmer and the Volunteer militia of Oregon forced the Klickitat and Klamath back to their homelands in the 1850s, while settlers took up claims anywhere they wanted to, irregardless of previous longterm Indian occupation.
Halo lived many years among the Americans and died in 1892. One story of his death suggested that he fell asleep after a night of drinking, and either fell, or was thrown, into the campfire by ruffians. He survived the fire for two weeks with severely burned legs. His family took the name Fearn, based on the meaning of Chief Halo’s Indian name Camapheema. Halo’s sons Jake and Beel (B.L.or Bee Ell) Fearn were known around the area of Cottage Grove until well into the 20th century. The descendants of the Halo family remain in the area, and remain family friends of the Applegate descendants.
Ethnohistory Research, LLC | David G. Lewis, PhD
PhD Anthropology (UO 2009) and Native history researcher. Member of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Takelma, Chinook, Molalla, and Santiam Kalapuya ancestry. Owner of Ethnohistory Research LCC, professional consultant and project researcher.
I teach at local universities and colleges and take contracts with tribes, local governments and nonprofits. I have experience in archival organization, museum development, exhibit curation, traditional cultural property nomination, tribal ethnohistoric research, tribal maps, traditional ecological knowledge, and presentations to large and small gatherings. Contact me for consultation about any of these projects.