History in the Vouchers: Joel Palmer’s Expense Journal

I have spent much time on Palmer’s and other early settler’s and explorer’s letters that I have gained a good understanding of the history of the tribes.  Some periods have missing details and so much of what I do (and most historians) is fill in the blanks with suppositions about what was probably taking place. I have also avoided some records as been too cumbersome. I have avoided most of the expense reports, as relatively boring documents without much detail. The letters tend to address the culture and changes happening to the tribes while the expense reports and budgets can be very circumspect with details of the tribes in the region. However, when I examined Palmer’s expense journal I found some historic details and perhaps even new information that must become part of the history of the tribes.

First there is a breakdown by each agent for what they were expending each quarter. This can be very confusing if one does not know the history. If we know  the dates of when things were occurring the dated expenses then become easier to read.

One of the largest subjects in Palmer’s journal is expenses towards transportation. Transportation costs in Oregon were extreme, we had a lot of rivers and paying ferriage costs (origin of the word “fare” and commonly used in the 19th century) of the ferries could become expensive if travelling the width and breadth of Oregon. Palmer at some point mentions the transportation cost as being much more than was originally planned for in the annual budgets.

The second big expense was that of getting the tribes together for treaty making. The federal government would pay all costs for travel for the Indian people to get to the treaty grounds and food and lodging to hash out a treaty over a weeks time. The lists of items paid for  illustrative the extent of the treaty negotiations, which tribes participated, and where they came from.

Image 1: Flett and Dorsey expenses December 1854

The two items (Image 1) above relate to the process of collecting the tribes and transporting them to Dayton for Treaty negotiations. Much of the coats come from the “Civilizing Indians” line items in the Superintendent’s budget. John Flett and George Dorsey worked in tandem to “collect”Indians in the valley, and they begin a month and a half before the treaty is to be discussed. In the winters in Oregon there is extreme weather and in the 19th century it was much colder than it is today, where many years the Columbia would freeze over solid. These sub-Indian agents would bring the tribe to encamp at Dayton to await the arrival of all of the tribes.

Image 2: Flett expense report for ferriage costs for the Treaty

Flett’s visitations in Image 2 above reflect where the tribal villages remained on the Columbia. Linn City would be the Clackamas and Clowewalla Indians; Ferriage over Columbia may be the Cathlamet tribes and visitations to the Louis (Lewis) river;  two days later, the 18th, he is at St. Helens likely to visit the Multnomah village (Kiesno Family main village), there Flett spends a few days, 18th-23rd likely getting organized for the trek to Dayton with his collected Indians;

Image 3: Palmer’s expense report of meals served at treaty

Palmer serves 1,864 meals to the Kalapuyans, Molallans, and Columbia River tribes. The treaty negotiations last several days and conclude on January 22nd. In the treaty report there is mention of the Chiefs and headmen negotiating directly with the Treaty commission, with Palmer and his agents, while around them are sitting the people of all of the tribes. At this negotiation are the Yamhills, Luckamiukes, Marysville, Winnifelly, Mohawk, Tecopa, Chafan, Calapooias (likely Ahantchuyuk), Molallas, Tualatin, Clackamas, Columbia River Bands (Multnomah, Watlalah), and Santiam band. Also he serves 852 horsefeeds- so they have a lot of horses. This detail of which tribes visited is very helpful for further research.

As well the grouping of the tribes in the journal account is interesting. The groups match somewhat the order of the tribes listed in the treaty. But could the groupings suggest the political organization of the tribes? Kalapuyan tribal village had political autonomy and chiefs would choose to align with other villages. The choice to be part of the group that first negotiates with Palmer on January 4th could very well be based on their political alignment and allegiance with one another. If this is the case, then the Yamhill, Lackamiuke, Marysville, Muddy and Long Tom may be aligned with each other in a form of confederacy. These are the tribes listed as having signed the treaty on January 4th, 1855.

Image 4: Palmer’s detail of expenses for return of the tribes

By January 25th the tribes are returning to their homes, having signed the Willamette Valley treaty and sold their lands to the United States. The ferriage amounts suggest where the tribes were travelling too. Mentioned are the Yamhill and Tualatin rivers, the Willamette and Clackamas, Thompson’s (ferry?), Dayton and Tualatin, and Oregon City.

Image 5 Palmer’s additional expenses

Palmer charges the government for the use of his House for the treaty. This is interesting as we did not before have confirmation that his property or house was involved in the treaty, as previous reports state the town of Dayton only. I had assumed he would use his DLC and house, but with this report we can now say definitively that he used his house. The house was used to lodge his staff and an office, perhaps the front room as a negotiations and meeting room, and he notes a cumulative 18 weeks stay. Besides Joel Palmer, at the treaty negotiations were Edward R. Geary, secretary, John Flett, interpreter, George Dorsey, Phillip A. Decker, Lorenzo Palmer (Palmer’s son), Cris. Taylor, assistant secretary and Andrew Smith. Of the employees, six are unrelated to Palmer, and so if these individuals stayed at the house, he boarded them for 3 weeks. This seems about right as the tribes were being gathered to Dayton by late December and ended about the 22nd.

The Kalapuyan chiefs of the Tualatin, Yamhill, Luckamiute and Marysville bands ended their negotiations on January 4th, the above stated beginning of the Treaty negotiating process (Image 5).

The Kalapuyan chiefs of the Calapooia (Ahantchuyuk) and the Molalla chiefs ended negotiations on January 9th.

The Kalapuyan chiefs of the Winnfelly, Mohawk (Pee-you), Chapen, Tecopa, and the Wallalla and Clackamas chiefs ended their negotiations on January 10th.

The Chiefs of the Clowewalla and Willamette Tumwater ended their negotiations on January 19th.

The Chiefs and headmen of the Santiam bands ended their negotiations on January 22nd.

(See Willamette Valley Treaty)

The second item is additional cash payments to the Chiefs. This was a common enough practice in the time. Treating the Chiefs special and giving them something to “grease the wheels” for their agreement. Palmer here notes that the treaty of purchase was between January 4th and March 12th 1855. The final signing of the treaty has always been stated as January 22nd, so why the extra 21 days? It may very well be that one tribe waited a few extra days to sign the treaty, or that some of the tribes remained in Dayton a few extra days.


Image 6: Palmer’s expenses during follow up meetings March 1855

Later in March 1855, the 20th and  21st, 26th and 27th Palmer met with a band of the Santiams, Joe’s Band, and the Chelamauke Band. Joe’s may be Joseph Hutchins  also known by his Native name Alquema. The band’s village was located outside of Scio, Oregon, while the Chelamauke band was that from the Long Tom river. These Tribal leaders may have not been at the original meeting in January and may have been added into the treaty later. The date is confusing if there are added later because the Treaty is ratified by Congress by March 3rd, 1855.

Image 6: Kiakuts Chief of the Tualatin

The Wapato Band of Calapooias or Tualatin Kalapuyans, were one of the closest tribes to Dayton. Still $2 dollars would not have helped much.

Image 7: Wallalla band of Tumwaters

Whether or not the Watlalla were at the treaty is not to be questioned now as we have extensive records of working with the tribe. John Swizler was an early settler who became something of a special agent in charge of the tribes in this area of the Columbia. The Tumwaters generally are the same as the Clackamas and Clowewalla. The Watlalla band (Cascades) is a close relatives to the Clackamas people. Interesting is the third invoice, a notation that “For improvements on claim sold Supt Ind Affrs for use of the Wallalla Band of Tumwaters as a Reserve.” The question is where is this reserve? Some reports suggest this is Swizler’s DLC as he was a special Indian agent, but Palmer is the Superintendent of Indian affairs. In another story we do have confirmation that the Clackamas and other Oregon City Indians are removed to Palmer’s DLC in Dayton while they await removal to a reservation in 1855.

Image 8: Louis’ payment

A special payment for Chief Louis of a Santiam Band. In other essays I have guessed this is Chief Tiacan’s American name. The payment comes right at the day of the treaty signing.

Image 9: treaty payments

In looking through the expense reports, I was looking for direct payments to the Special Indian agents in the Willamette Valley. The payments are reported to have been $1000 per year for each temporary reservation. This payment to the Clackamas in September 1855, for temporary assistance in agriculture suggest that this may be one of those payments. The Clackamas once removed to the Palmer DLC needed to grow their own food, and so Palmer may be essentially paying himself for their farming needs. This item also introduces another title for the treaty, the “Treaty with Calapooia, Molalla, and Clackamas Indians.”

Image 10 Payment to William H Wilson  March 30,1855

William H. Wilson (Willson is the normal spelling for this family) was a huge landowner in Salem, a member of the Methodist Church and the trustee of the Mission land holdings in Salem. The Tom’s Band of Calapooians, noted, may very well have been the Tom listed in the Willamette Valley treaty as, La-ham, a third chief of the Santiam Band. The Santiams claimed territory into Salem, with a village at Chemeketa, and so Tom may very well have been the Chief of Chemeketa. Palmer here is then purchasing(or leasing?) 1.5 Acres of land in Salem for the Chemeketans, to sow in potatoes, along with tools and seed. Perhaps this payment is helping the tribe get through the year, with one season of potatoes, before removal to the reservation, and William H. Wilson is then in charge of them. This suggests a temporary unofficial reservation at the site of the Salem waterfront.

Image 11: Geary and Flett setting up the Temporary Calapooian reserves

March 3rd 1855 is when the Treaty is ratified. Palmer quickly then moves to get the tribes onto temporary reservations. The travel list above from Geary suggests that he was delivering supplies to these temporary reservations before the summer planting season. All of the locations are in the Willamette Valley and the temporary reservation locations are already known for the Santiam.

Image 12: Table Rock Reservation hay making

Hay making at Table Rock, likely in Sam’s valley, was the industry chosen at the Table Rock Reservation. Within a year Indian Agent Culver is brought up on charges, and then fired by Palmer, under suggestions that he may have mis-used Indian laborers, no paid them fairly, and mis-appropriated funds from this project.

Image 13: Pay rates for Indians

The Indian service paid Native people differently than white people who did the same job. Above we have detailed payments for messenger services, basically a pony express type letter delivery, before there was regular mail service. Culver, the Indian Agent at Table Rock is paying his Indian messengers $1 per day, while white (non-Indian) messengers are paid $4 a day. There is a clear discrimination in pay for Native people. This practice continues into the 20th century with reports that Native laborers at the reservation made half the wages of white men doing the same labor.

Image 14: Coos Bay visitation November 24 1854

The summer of 1854 was when the Coast Treaty was negotiated, and it was never ratified by Congress. But this is also when there was heavy settlement in Coos Bay by white people, as well as settlement in the Coquille and Port Orford areas. These settlements caused much conflict between the tribes and the settlers. The worst situation was at Crescent City, CA to Brookings, OR where tribes were simply exterminated in a series of attacks by militia. The white militia sought to clear the coast of tribes to make way for merchants and ports to feed resources to the gold rushers. Regardless of the present villages of the tribes, the white Americans would simply claim the land while the tribes yet lived there. The tribes are later removed to a temporary reservation in Empire in 1856. With this account we may be able to find other reports of the conflicts in Coos Bay in 1854, especially in reports by Martine.



Joel Palmer Voucher Letterbook, RG75, M2, R29

The Willamette Valley treaty, January 22, 1855

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