They Were of Good Character and Industrious, Kalapuya and Umpqua Off-Reservation Allotments

Indian Off-Reservation Allotments

Members of the Halo Family of Yoncalla Indians, were allotted with off-reservation Indian Allotments in 1892. Most of their allotments were in an areas covered by GLO maps 20S, 4W; 23S, 4W; and the vast majority in 22S 4W, a mountainous and hilly region of central-western Oregon, on the edge of the Calapooia Range. This area is the dividing range between the Willamette and Umpqua watersheds, within the original tribal territory of the Yoncalla Indians.

The Fearns, as detailed below are the sons and grandchildren of Chief  Halo. This cluster of four families in the area between Cottage Grove and the Umpqua Valley is a rare incidence of a cluster of Indian families successfully remaining off-reservation, and integrating with the encroaching American communities. There are no other examples of this magnitude in the Willamette Valley. In fact the incidence of Indians gaining homesteads is also very rare. The association of this family with the Applegates, may have helped them gain acceptance and land through the federal process. The Applegate clan wielded great power in this area of the Oregon for some 50 years. Members of the Applegate family were involved in the Oregon government, in surveying land, and one or more of the family served as an Indian agent. They were very vocal, and wrote to every official they knew in order the get things done. The family surveyed and established the Applegate Trail, another major route into western Oregon from the south. It is the precursor for Highway 99 and even I-5. Therefore, their help gaining homesteads for the Calapooia and Umpqua Indians would have been invaluable.

Letterbook (NARA) of Off-reservation Indian Allotments. Note the cluster of Fearn allotments, Photo by David Lewis 2014.
Note cancellations on the Bee Ell and Jake Fearn applications, as well as two Umpqua family allotments. Photo by David Lewis 2014

These allotments were not noted on the GLO maps that were surveyed in 1902.  It is likely that the allotted lands were not settled by the Indians, it being too hilly for settlements. The first survey records in 1851 described the character of the land thusly:

Land hilly descends S. & E. timber fir, redwood and alder, … hazel, all this township is very hilly timbered mostly with fir & some maple, oak & alder (Freeman GLO Survey Notes).

There apparently was a good number of Redwoods in the Umpqua Valley, at least in this area of the Calapooia Range. They ranged in diameter from 12 inches to 15 feet around in two different surveyors’ notes from 1851 and 1855. One notation of a cabin in these woods suggests some settlement and perhaps prospecting in the area, but this high in the mountains would not have a native village. The mountains were not too far from the prairies of the Umpqua valley, of which the surveyors noted that the land was very flat with good soils.

W. Boundary T. 22S. R. 3W, Peak from which the mountains south maybe seen rising much higher than any we have yet passed and over which it is impracticable  to extend the line, nothing but high mountains can be seen for 12 miles south and far to the east. The Creeks descend E. & N. to the Willamette- from 1 to 3 miles west of this line the waters descend to streams, tributaries to the Umpqua thence to the Pacific. Thence make an effort and run to establish the south boundary of T. 22S, R. 4W to Cor. T22 & 23S Rs. 4 & 5 W (Freeman GLO Survey Notes). 

The main families noted in the off-reservation records are those of Bee Ell and Jake Fearn. The allotments are for all of their children and their spouses. The records indicate that the Bee-Ell and Jake Fearn families were closely related to a family of Umpqua Indians who lived in the same “neighborhood.”

first page, cover page of Bee Ell Fearn, B.L. Fearn allotment, additional notes show cancellation of the Indian allotment


The allotment documents are cross-signed by members of the Fearns, Bee Ell, Jake and Mack (heads of Households), as well as by a family of Umpqua Indians, at least two individuals, Billy Umpqua (age 85+ an old chief of the Umpquas) and Chenowith Umpqua (age 19),and Isaac Umpqua (23),  as well as another Calapooia family, the Fisherman’s, husband Sam, wife Mary and their son Enoch, age 11.

Several of the allotments are cancelled in the 1890s. Apparently, Bee Ell and Jake Fearn both had acquired Homesteads under the Homestead act. The records suggest that they each had 80 and 40 acres homesteaded, and then applied for an additional 80 acres each under the Indian allotment act, to a limit of 160 acres allowed. Their minor children (ages 2-17), wives, and sons over the age of 18 all got allotments of about 160 acres for everyone, so the men wanted the same. However, under an opinion of the Deputy Assistant Attorney General, their Indian allotments were all cancelled under the assumption that these men had disavowed their Native heritage to gain Homesteads and so could not additionally claim Indian allotments. Apparently, the Office of the Attorney General thought they were double-dipping. (I need to find their Homestead records to see if they actually had to disavow their Native heritage.)

Notation in an Indian allotment for Jake Fearn (Yoncalla Jake) suggesting he had abandoned his tribal relations. ( this opinion has not been located by me yet)

The Indian allotments of two other individuals Billy Umpqua, Chenowith Umpqua, and Isaac Umpqua were also cancelled. Billy Umpqua, the 85 year old Chief, apparently had a Homestead, and so his Indian allotment was cancelled for the aforementioned reasons of the two Fearn men. Chenowith’s was cancelled with no reason given, it is conceivable that since he was likely the son of Billy, since they assumed that Billy had disavowed his native heritage, that they assumed his son could not then claim it. There was not a Indian Allotment file found for  Isaac Umpqua in the SWORP records, the letterbook suggests that his allotment was cancelled for the same opinion from the Office of the Assistant Attorney General.

A table of the many Indian Allotment records, the various allotments are grouped by section, township and range to show family groupings,

The Fearn family was three main groups, the head of the families being Bee Ell, Jake, and Mack. The father of Bee Ell and Jake was Chief Halo who had died in the late 1870s (see letter essay). Halo had grown up on the Row River, according to newspaper and journal accounts from Cottage Grove. Halo remained in the Cottage Grove area for much of his life, and had a fish trap there, which he managed in conjunction with a white settler. In addition, in about 1856, Halo was living at the Applegate homestead. Near this homestead in the Umpqua Valley at Yoncalla, was a Yoncalla village. Halo lived there and interacted extensively with the Applegates, becoming a good friend and laborer for them. In fact, Robert Applegate (the father) protected Halo during the threat of their removal to Grand Ronde (Jesse Applegate’s Journals).

Information from Jesse Applegate’s writings in comparison with the Indian allotments records suggest that the Fearn men may have had an Umpqua mother or had married Umpqua women. All of the allotment applications are cross-signed by the Fearns, Fishermen, and Umpquas, suggesting that they were all related. Additionally, the allotments all clustered together in family groups in the sections. There was likely a long term cross-kinship in the Umpqua Valley, as it was occupied by Yoncalla Calapooians and Upper Umpqua River peoples, co-existing and intermarrying together regularly.

The Yoncallas, according to the records we have of where Halo was born, occupied at least one village in the far southern edge of the Willamette Valley as well as villages in the Umpqua Valley. This cultural landclaim is not noted in treaties of the region. The Willamette Valley treaty of 1855 southern border is at the Calapooia Range, and the Yoncalla are not included as signatories to that treaty. They are part of the Umpqua and Calapooia Treaty of 1854 which has its northern boundary at the Calapooia Range.

The three or four family groups noted were clustered in three areas, only one of which was clearly habitable for farming.

Section 18 of 22S 4W was only habitable in the southeast area.

The other sections with clusters were completely hilly and mountainous suggesting that the associated Indian allotments were never lived on. The transcriptions from the affidavits (below) suggest that the family lived on a few of the allotments, and used the forest for raw materials, they logged off the land, and would sell saw-wood to local settlers.

22S 4W section 4 had a large cluster of Indian allotments, the image shows a narrow ravine with a creek.


22S 6W was also hilly but appeared to be subdivided for settlement, suggesting that it could have been settled. This image is from 1856.


The character of the surrounding land was no better, but over the southern side of the hills, in the Umpqua valley there began settlers, here shown is the Scott Homestead at sections 31 and 32. This is near Elk Creek, somewhat near Elkton.

There is a letter from B.L. Fearn written about ten years before they got Indian allotments. At that time he already had a Homestead of 80 acres from 1871, which he states he had to pay for. In the letter he notes how large their original landclaim was and states that they never got paid for their land. This is likely true as all payments for the lands were directed to the reservations, and annuities were paid from 1856-1875 only. So, since the Halo family remained off-reservation, they would not have gotten the benefits of the reservations. Under protocols of the Department of Interior and Congress, Indians who remained off-reservation, legally forfeited their annuities. These rules may or may not be binding in a court of law (if challenged) as they are only payment protocols and not part of the stipulations in the treaties. Since the Halo family never attacked Americans, they also would not be disallowed under treaty provisions that disallow payments based on violent acts against Americans.  Unless they joined an Indian claims lawsuit in the 20th century, this band of the Yoncalla Calapooians still have never been fairly paid for their lands. I have not seen such a case, that included the Halo/Fearn family yet.

Further research about the Treaties, Homesteads and the opinions of the Office of the Attorney General may reveal more to this early period for the story.

Indian Heirship Investigations

Beginning in about 1911 the Federal Government began heirship investigations of the original Daws Act allottees. This included the Off-reservation Indian Allotments. Many of the original allottees had died and no provisions were made in the act to have descendants inherit the lands. By 1912, most of the allotments had been proved up, the Indian people had owned them for 20 years and the land was about to become, or had become the property of the allottees with fee-simple titles, which fell under Oregon Land laws. But the deceased allottees were a problem. Testimony was taken from family members and neighbors about the original allottees as the Indian agents sought to find who may inherit the land or after sale of it, may get part of the sale funds. Below is a series of excerpts of testimony taken during the investigations.

N0tice of hearing to determine the Heirs of Benjamin Harrison Fearn, January 23rd and 24th 1912, Horace G. Wilson, Superintendent and Special Disbursing Agent

Notices sent to Jake Fearn Anlauf, Oregon, This hearing was set for January 23, 1912, but was changed to January 22, 1912 at the request of Jake Fearn, and from Cottage Grove to Yoncalla Ore.

George Applegate- first witness- Benjamin died about 15 years ago- age about 12-13 years- father Jake Fearn-mother Mary Fearn- both still living- brothers Mack, Sam, Alex,- Mack and Sam still living- sister is dead- known Jake and Mary about 50 years- Father’s name was Chief Halo- some family relationship to Jack Fisherman- Halo and Jack lived in the same Tepee- father of Jack was Old Fisherman Bristow-They were always friendly toward whites.

Thomas Applegate- second witness- known Jake more than 60 years- father was Halo- remembered Fisherman Bristow.

Jake Fearn- third witness- full blooded Calapooia Indian- age 64 years- Benjamin died about 14 years ago- age 5 years- I was his father- mother Mary Fearn- four brothers Mack, Sam, Ronny, Lenan- Mack and Sam are still living- two sisters Bertha and another, both dead- other children Dave, Alma, Oma and no name baby-

Z.L. Cox- fourth witness- Harrison died about 1889, father Jake Fearn.

Summary Report- Benjamin Harrison Fearn- Calopooia- allotment no. 38- death about year 1897- age 5 years-

In fact most of his children died within a year of each other, perhaps because of some illness during this time. Illnesses like flus (influenzas) were known to kill many people in great epidemics during this era.

Jake, as father, is determined to be the final and sole heir and he requests the land be sold so that he can support himself, furnish his home and build a barn. The value of the land he inherited from his deceased children was 1430 acres valued at 35,000, a fortune for the time.

The hearings of the other children who are deceased were the same or similar in content, with Jake inheriting them all.

The hearing regarding an unknown allotment, that of Alma Fearn gets more interesting. Mary Fearn, Jake’s wife, applies for this allotment in 1895, well after all of the others, likely because Alma is a newborn. The investigators decide that her allotment, since it is unproven until 1915, would be cancelled as Jake had Homestead lands and he is ineligible to have an Indian Allotment. (Its unclear if they even thought of the mother inheriting?)  They record one of his homesteads as H.E. #8582, January 21, 1896 and proved up on May 26, 1902. The other homestead he had that eliminated his ability to have an Indian allotment was H.E. 1571 dated May 5 1871, but he also had a third Homestead parcel, H.E. 5624, proved up on August 29, 1903. Jake apparently applied for Homesteads under two names, the second being Yoncalla Jake, which the report makes clear is the same person as Jake Fearn. Its unclear from these records, if this was illegal to apply under two names like this, or what the federal officials did about it.

Alma’s allotment was some 20 acres of good agricultural lands in section 6 Township 22S, and range 4W (#233), in an area suitable for a house. Mack Fearn (her brother) built a house on the land, a box house, with a shake roof. Mack applied to have a homestead on the land, and was cutting cordwood from the land, over 40 cords. The Special Agent appears to have taken a personal interest in Mack’s Case and helped prepare his homestead papers for him for lands embracing the Alma Fearn Allotment. The agent states:

a year ago a white man took some interest in him for the reason that he is industrious, sober, intelligent, and reliable, and secured for him a contract to do some hauling for a man in that neighborhood for which he secured a good team, harness and wagon, and he fulfilled his contract and secured the outfit. His wagon and harness were not very good, but the team is, and he then begun to figure to get a new harness and wagon. He got them and now has a good outfit for working and can do well. If any man who saw him yesterday as he met me forty miles north of here in the town of Drain, where we went before the U.S. Commissioner to have him sign and acknowledge his homestead application, could say that there was a neater, better dressed or behaved man in town, I would like to see him. He is neat, well behaved, industrious and never used intoxicating liquors. … Here is an opportunity to do an Indian some good. 

Jake’s Fingerprint- just because its very intriguing.


This short study suggests that off-reservation Indians were doing well in the fifty years after treaties. They were able to take advantage of Indian and white laws for gaining land, and work, and many people in the community felt as if the Indians were owed something for losing their lands. They were helped in many ways. Their character was always being questioned, and the Fearns had a good reputation as being of good character. They had assimilated to the surrounding American society well. They did not suffer for being off-reservation, except for never being paid for their lands. This is more a problem of the inconsistent Indian management policies of the federal government, than the fault of the natives themselves. In comparison, reservation Indians were treated very badly and had fewer options available to them.


See my other essays that address the living situation at the Grand Ronde Reservation.


GLO maps from the BLM (online)

Special Case files from RG75 Indian Allotment records from the Roseberg land office, NARA (SWORP collection)

Social Case files regarding Heirships, RG 75, NARA (SWORP Collection)

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