The Cow Creek Umpquas were a Takelman speaking tribe of native peoples related to the Takelma peoples of the Rogue river valley. The Cow Creek peoples resided in the Cow Creek watershed and parts of the southeastern Umpqua Valley.
In 1853, Joel Palmer wrote the first treaty of all Oregon tribal treaties to be eventually ratified by the United States Congress. Palmer, in 1853 was still attempting to get all of the western tribes to move to the Umatilla region of Eastern Oregon. However, the tribes were not accepting of such a drastic move and declined, forcing Palmer to arrange for temporary reservations throughout western Oregon to contain the tribes until he could arrange for a permanent reservation in an acceptable location.
As such, in 1853 there was yet to be chosen an acceptable location for the permanent reservation. In 1854 there was chosen a location on the central coast of Oregon, which became the Coast Reservation. The plan was to remove all tribes to this location within 5 years (5 years is inferred due to the agreements Plamer makes with farmers in the Willamette Valley for their services as special agents to watch over the tribes). The Coast Reservation was created by executive order in 1855, yet was not fully open or intentionally occupied with removed Natives until summer of 1856.
Since the Cow Creek treaty was not ratified by Congress until 1855, its a question of whether the Cow Creeks were actually moved to the temporary reservation before February of 1855. There are numerous cases of tribes removing to reservations, before their treaties are ratified, generally as a gesture of peace and goodwill on their part. It may also be that the temporary reservation was centered n their original villages and so they did not need to remove at all. Many tribes removed and lost out on the value of their lands for generations, some tribes for over 150 years, before they were paid for their lands in a series of Indian Claims cases. However, in the earliest days of treaty-making in Oregon tribes generally trusted the words of Indian Agents and Joel Palmer seemed to be a gifted negotiator in this regard. But even Palmer’s promises of goodwill, payments, housing, peace and safety did not last past his firing in mid- 1856, well before such verbal agreements could be honored, and so many tribes lost everything due to their miss-placed trust.
The temporary Cow Creek Reservation was fully within the boundary of their ceded lands, or lands that the tribe sold, as suggested in article 2 of the treaty. Its likely that the sudden change from maintaining the Cow Creek Reservation, to removal of all tribes to the Umpqua reservation was prompted by the outbreak of the Rogue River Indian war in 1855, just south of these localities. There were natural affinities between the Cow Creeks and the Rogue River tribes, and kinship relationships. In addition, the constant harassment of the Cow Creeks and other tribes in the Umpqua valley, with murders, attacks, rapes of women by roaming settler militias, like what caused the Rogue Rivers to leave Table Rock Reservation, was likely to eventually end up in a war. So all of the tribes had to removed quickly to the Umpqua Reservation to manage any further violence. But, this would not be enough, as written about in other essays.
Article 2 of the Cow Creek treaty suggests the boundaries of the Reservation.
Article 2: It is agreed on the part of the United States that the aforesaid Tribe shall be allowed to occupy temporarily that portion of the above described tract of territory bounded as follows, to wit; commencing on the south side of Cow Creek at the mouth of Council Creek opposite Wm H. Riddle’s land claim thence up said creek to the summit of Canon Mountain thence northerly to Cow Creek at a point on the same one mile above the falls; thence down said creek to place of beginning. It being understood that this last described tract of land shall be deemed and considered an Indian reserve until a suitable selection shall be made by the direction of the President of the United States, for their permanent residence; and buildings erected thereon and other improvements made of equal value of those upon the above reserve at the time of removal. (Sept. 19, 1853 Treaty with the Umpqua Tribe: Cow Creek Band, Ratified April 12, 1854)
There remain a few questions about the temporary reservation boundary which may be cleared up by those more familiar with Cow Creek area. I am still unsure where Canon Mountain is for the southeast corner, and where the falls on Cow Creek are to determine the northwest corner. In an inspection of Cow Creek on Google Earth I did find a falls-like rapids nearly directly north of the southwestern corner.
The Riddle land claim was very easy to find, to define the northeast corner. There is today a town named Riddle just downriver, east of the Riddle land claim. This image below of the land claim is from the General Land Office survey map of 1855. I looked to see if there was the temporary Indian reservation noted, and there is no such notation on the map, but there may be more in the survey notes.
The Cow Creeks did not have to travel far in October-November 1855, only over one range, past Lookingglass creek and valley and into the Umpqua plains to get to the reservation.
The early Cow Creek Temporary Reservation appears to have existed from just after September 19, 1853 (assuming that the tribes began to remove voluntarily), to about early November 1855. The correspondence of Macgruder of November 7th, 1855, suggests that the tribes are already newly moved onto the new temporary Umpqua reservation at the date of his writing. As well the Cow Creeks men are enumerated in the 1855 Umpqua census roll which Macgruder collected about November 15th, 1855.
This is likely what they saw in this hilly canon area.