Joel Palmer’s Defiant Cattle Drive Through Grand Ronde, 1874

In 1874, Joel Palmer was again an independent contractor for the Indian service, after having completed a two-year stint as the Indian Agent for the Siletz Agency. Palmer was constantly working on business deals, and one which he hatched was a plan to raise cattle on the Coast, where they would be in readily available to be sold to the Siletz Reservation. In this period Siletz was very remote and in the winter months, it was exceedingly difficult to get supplies or food into the reservation, as the trails were muddy and the rivers fast and treacherous. Palmer’s plan was to raise cattle and crops on the reservation and to also build a wagon road to the Siletz Agency from the Coast to more completely link the two communities, and therefore more efficiently provision them

Palmer knew well the tribal peoples living at the Salmon River encampment, at this time, the Nechesne and Nestucca tribal members. Palmer had established the early plan for the Coast Reservation, even planning to use the Coastal estuaries to help feed the tribes (there is a letter about this). Joel Palmer had experience working for the Indian Service from 1853 to 1856 as the Superintendent of Oregon, which taught him that the federal government was slow to pay its bills and tribal peoples would likely starve and suffer from exposure for months if the agents solely relied upon the government. As Superintendent, Palmer relied on credit with local farmers, ranchers, and supply merchants to provision the Indian communities before and after the reservations were formed and settled. Palmer’s signed invoices from his early career as Superintendent were being submitted years after he was fired. It’s very clear that the Federal government did not really understand the expenses of managing Indian tribes in the West, likely did not understand travel and provisioning expenses, nor understood the dramatic environmental factors which were not as prevalent in the East, but which made travel extremely difficult and expensive in the winter period.

Joel Palmer, Oregon Indian Superintendent 1853-1856, Siletz Agent 1871-72

The nine-mile stretch of coast, from Siletz River to the Nechesne River, was relatively flat and had plenty of grassy prairie lands and a good freshwater source at Devil’s Lake, to subsist a large herd of cattle until they were ready to be slaughtered. Palmer managed to easily secure the pre-approval of the tribal people living at the Salmon River Encampment, to run cattle on the unused portion of this coastal plain. Then he approached the new agent Fairchild for a contract. Subsequently, Fairchild had a meeting with the tribes on the coast and gained their approval for Palmer to run cattle, and so wrote a contract with Palmer for the enterprise.

One section of the survey map 1872 (Sinnott 1874)
Detail of 1872 survey showing some allotted settlements at the Salmon River

In fact, Fairchild’s meeting with the tribes revealed a great depth of trust they assigned to Palmer. They stated,

Skaley:… I am glad to hear of this- I think it’s a good thing- I think you are doing a good thing for the Indians in making this lease. I am glad to see Gen, Palmer here. Last winter I had nothing to eat but fish and muscles and if Gen. Palmer comes I know I can work for him and sometimes get flour and beef. Long ago when he was Superintendent, he brought us here. I heard what he said at Port Orford in my country. He brought us from there on a fire ship. When we passed this place he called us all on the deck of the Steamer and pointed out this country and told us that all below the mouth of Salmon River was to be our home. Our hearts were glad to see this country and we have always considered it ours.

Leggins:… If Gen. Palmer lives here he will help us. It is very good for him to come, though probably I shall never receive any benefit from the rent of this land. The first time I saw Gen, Palmer I was a boy. When I saw him again in my country I was a man.

George Chief of the Sixes:… It is good for Gen. Palmer to come here. All the old people knew him long ago and if any of his cattle are killed it will not be the old people that will do it. If Gen. Palmer lives here he will not permit bad white people who come to the coast in the summer to abuse us.

Old Man Charlie:… I think it good for him to come here. We all look on Gen. Palmer as one of our people. No matter who is the agent the old people of Siletz will always regard Gen. Palmer as one of their chiefs. My heart is glad to think he will come here. Long ago he was a good friend to us and we all like him. He has always been our friend (Letter of August 3, 1874, from Fairchild).

Palmer was clearly well trusted by the tribes. He helped them when they were in greatest need during the Rogue River Indian wars. He negotiated all of their treaties and removed them to safety, and fed them. He kept his word to the tribes, even when it cost him his career as the Indian Superintendent of Oregon.

Palmer’s contract with Agent J. H. Fairchild was signed on March 13th, 1874. The contract stipulates, that Palmer and his associates may run cattle, horses, and sheep, for dairying and grazing from the Salmon River south to the boundary of the Siletz Reservation, and 3 miles inland, as well as the privilege of cultivating as much land as necessary to grow vegetables for family use and oats for livestock, as well as cut timber as necessary, as long as the areas they are using,  are unoccupied by the Indians and that they do not interfere with Indian hunting, gathering, or fishing. The term of the contract is for ten years, Palmer will only hire Siletz Indians for laborers, and he will pay the agency $200 a year as a lease fee (Fairchild March 13, 1874).

Opposition by the Grand Ronde tribes was immediately heard by those tribal people living on the coast. Chief George of the Sixes sums it up, “The Grand Ronde Indians are always trying to get the best of us in some way- they say we are like horses and eat oats- It is true we do not get all we want and are hungry many times. At Grand Ronde the agent has mills and can give the Indians flour while our agent has none.” And the statement of Leggins, “Why do Grand Ronde Indians want to prevent our leasing this country, it was never theirs, this country was given us by Gen. Palmer long ago…”(Letter of August 3, 1874, from Fairchild), The funding situation of Grand Ronde was much better than the Coast Reservation. Grand Ronde was receiving annual funds for six and a half treaties ratified from western Oregon. The Coast reservation was funded by “about” one-half of the annuities of a treaty (likely the Rogue River Treaty of 1853), for those people who had never went to war against the United State. Those Tribal people who had joined the Rogue River Confederacy were not funded, and so the majority of funds to the Coast Reservation were totally dependent on the will of Congress to continue funding. Because of this, Grand Ronde was able to get built saw and grist mills and better provisions through the early history of the reservation. (It remains to be determined how much of the Rogue River Treaty was actually paid over to Siletz, and how much federal Indian funding was reapportioned by the Indian Superintendents for Oregon based on local needs.)

Some months later, Indian Agent P.B. Sinnott heard of the leasing deal, from the Grand Ronde Indians, and began complaining loudly through a series of letters to the Indian office. Sinnott was a medical doctor and served also as the Indian Agent, and had a long tenure at Grand Ronde Indian Reservation at the agent. Sinnott was surprised and upset at the contract, mainly, apparently, because he had not been told about it. The Indians under Sinnott’s care he stated were critical of the contract which gave Palmer freedom for many years to run cattle over large areas of the Coast without much return in the form of lease fees, an agreement which suggested some preferential treatment towards Palmer. Agent Sinnott, as well, had already denied two other contracts for similar proposals.

Sinnott’s critique picked up steam in the correspondence, and he finally sent a detailed list of issues he had with the Palmer contract, and he even initiated a letter to Palmer which told him to cease all activities on the contract, suggesting it was invalid.

Sinnott’s critique was built on an understanding he had about his jurisdiction at Indian agent of the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation. Sinnott stated that the Grande Ronde Reservation extended beyond the original boundaries of the reservation to include the two sections of coast territory from just about the Nestucca Tribal region, to the Siletz River.  “From the Siletz (river) to the Salmon River is a part of this (Grand Ronde) Reservation” (Sinnott July 1, 1874).  Sinnott pointed to a survey which had been accomplished in 1872 for the coast which listed this large coastal zone and showed allotments given to Grand Ronde Tribal Members on the coast. These 20-acre sections were also made in preparations for the removal of other tribal peoples to this section of the coast, the planned removal of the Tillamookans from the north, and the eventual and much-rumored termination of the southern Alsea reservation and removal of the Alseas to this area. “The land claimed to be leased by Mr. Palmer is embodied in this (Grand Ronde) reservation and surveyed sections of it subdivided into 20 acre lots, some of which are occupied by Indians and all of which was designed for that purpose” (Sinnott July 1, 1874)

Sinnott also referred to a common understanding that existed between him and the previous Indian agent at Siletz (Palmer) about allowed use of the Coastal zone by Grand Ronde, suggesting that this understanding gave administrative oversight to Grand Ronde. “at the time the survey was being made (1872) Mr. Palmer was U.S. Ind. Agt. at Siletz and passed through this agency… During the time Mr. Palmer was Agent it was well understood between my predecessor and him that the jurisdiction of this Agency was over that country. Further, at the time Mr. Palmer was Supt of Indian Affairs for Oregon (1853-1856) this reservation was established and he showed the Indians that portion of it telling them that they could then use it for fishing and hunting grounds and in the future when they became advanced in civilization… they could use it for farms and pasture” (Sinnott July 1, 1874).

Even though this area of the Coast, between the Nechene and Siletz rivers, is within the boundaries of the Coast Reservation, that the Grand Ronde agents for some 36 years took control over the administration of the coastal zone, from the Tillamook Region to the north, to the Siletz River at the south. Siletz agency did not take direct control of the coast until perhaps 1886, when the Tillamook tribes are included on the Siletz Reservation census. Previous to 1886, the Tillamookans were all enumerated within the Grand Ronde Reservation censuses.

In the late 1850s, the Salmon River section on the coast was developed by Grand Ronde Indian Agents into a fishery for Grand Ronde tribal members. The fishery activities likely centered at the Nechesne village, and/or the Salmon River encampment involved Grand Ronde tribal members traveling the Salmon River trail regularly to access the fishery. The Salmon River trail was then developed and widened into a wagon road to handle larger wagons of supplies. Grand Ronde people manually expanded the road and developed a toll gate system to capture a bit of revenue from the many people who began traveling this road to the coast in their attempts to vacation on the coast. The Salmon River Wagon road became the main route to the coast from the Willamette Valley.

Because of the natural affinity to the coast between the Nestucca River and the Nechesne, the many agents at Grand Ronde treated the coastal zone as their own territory, as a part of the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation. Sinnott also alludes to a decision made in 1872, to not allow half breed Grand Ronde Indians to get informal allotments in the Grand Ronde valley. Instead, they were offered twenty-acre allotments on the coast, in the area in question, which they would have to move to. Many agreed to this and moved to the Coast at the Salmon River encampment to get land. This decision makes this area of the coast part of the Grand Ronde Allotment area, a new understanding which makes the land claims of both reservations over this area of coast much more complicated.

The decision by the Indian Agent Sinnott to attract half breed Grand Ronde people to the coast has huge implications about Grand Ronde membership and citizenship rights at the Grand Ronde Reservation. If these families remained in the coastal zone after the area is formally taken control of by the Siletz Reservation and agency, they would then have fallen under the administrations of Siletz and began to be counted among the Siletz members thereafter.  It is unclear if Agent Sinnott really had the right to impose such a policy upon half-blood Indians at Grand Ronde, as there are no formal policy statements that suggested that half-blooded Indians have fewer rights than full-blooded native people. The descendants of these families may then not have been allowed enrolling at Grand Ronde in future enrollments or included in annual tribal censuses after 1886 when Siletz finally takes formal control of the Coastal area at Salmon River. (The censuses substituted for some tribes for tribal rolls.) This remains a key question of Grand Ronde history, of how much tribal membership was influenced by the actions of past Indian agents and their (informed or uninformed) interpretations of the policies and rights regarding tribal people under their supervision. As new agents came on at Grand Ronde, and later in the 20th century on the Grand Ronde-Siletz Agency (a combined agency), they would not have known of the informal allotments on the coast and would likely have discounted those Grand Ronde members in their enumerations. Normally, not much direction was given to the Agents newly assigned, nor did they have much in the way of complete records left by the previous agents and so much of the policies of the reservation were purely their interpretation of federal laws

It is very clear in the letters from Fairchild and Sinnott that both agents assumed they were the administrators of the same area of the coast. There were parallel planning efforts by both agents for removal of the Tillamookans and Alsea Reservation tribes to this area of the coast. Sinnott assumed that he was in charge, because of this history of handshake deals between the Grand Ronde and Siletz agents for the use of the Salmon River fishery by Grand Ronde Indians. Its also clear that Palmer knew the truth of the situation, knew that Siletz Agency Indian Agents were the formal administrators of the whole of the Coast Reservation. Palmer had established the reservations and knew exactly which administrator to approach for his lease deal. Sinnott also seems to have been a bit aggressive in his actions to claim the coastal sections. One factor not yet considered is the fact that the tribes on the northern section of the Coast Reservation were administered by the Indian Agents at Grand Ronde, who spent money and time on the tribal communities. This money they spent, came directly from the Grand Ronde Reservation budget. As well, if the tribes at Grand Ronde had not been allowed to use the Salmon River fishery, then the Salmon River wagon road would not have been developed so soon, and many more tribal people may have starved at Grand Ronde in the earliest years of the reservation. There are numerous situations and factors to consider in the history of the area, much of the administrative confusion created by the utter miss-administration of the Indian reservations by the Federal government whose promises, embodied in the treaties, went unfulfilled for several generations

Joel Palmer, when receiving a strongly-worded cease and desist letter from Agent Sinnott, just ignored the threats in the letter. His response suggested that he absolutely had the right to have a contract on the Coast with Agent Fairchild. Palmer even ignored Sinnott’s orders to not run cattle through the Grand Ronde Reservation. Palmer was building up the herd at the coast by running 25 head of cattle at a time on the narrow and treacherous Salmon River Trail,  driving the cattle from his allotment at Dayton, through the Grand Ronde Reservation to the Coast. Immediately after corresponding with Sinnott, he ran another group of 25 head of cattle through Grand Ronde Reservation, literally trampling Agent Sinnott’s vociferous protestations through this action.

The decision about this contract was left up to Special Agent Vandever to decide. Vandever took some time gathering information and was engaged in audited the funding for the Oregon superintendency. As yet there is not a decision found from Vandever. But in 1875 Palmer was engaged with charges from the Indian Office that his record keeping was not correct and he had to get his records in order. In a letter, Palmer complains about the losses, some $500 in losses he incurred. It’s clear that the lease of the coastal plain did not occur and Palmer likely lost much of his investment, selling the cattle at a loss.

It is unclear which reservation had formal control over the northern section of the Coast Reservation, north of Siletz River. History suggests that Grand Ronde agents had more direct control, while federal records suggest that the Coast Reservation was one entity from 1855 until at least 1865, and then was divided into Alsea Reservation at the South and Siletz Reservation at the north. There was as well a third district, the Umpqua Reservation which is not well known or studied but managed a good portion of the Umpqua River and parts of the Alsea region of the Coast Reservation well into the 1860s. These were local and manageable districts for Indian agents who were hard-pressed to satisfy their roles of managing hundreds if not thousands of tribal people, many who did not want to be removed to a foreign land. The history also suggests that the original Coast Reservation was not well planned to manage as many as 4,000 Indians, the federal government was not prepared, and their agents manipulated the administrative districts and budgets to pay the bills to keep the tribal people alive despite the lack of good administrative oversight by the Indian office. The initial plans set forth by Joel Palmer appear to be prophetic, as he initially planned in an early letter to establish concentrations of Indian communities near the river estuaries, because he foresaw the failure of the federal administration and the overwhelming need of the tribes for food and shelter, when he was the Superintendent of Indian Affairs. This discussion by Palmer became the plan for some 30 years along the coast for the tribes. Today Grand Ronde and Siletz, and the Coos Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw engage in various degrees of claims over sections of the Coast Reservation. These claims dod not access the incredibly divisive political history of the region that the Federal government thrust the tribes into. The reality is that the region is a shared administrative tribe region, with shared overlapping territories. This is a tough understanding for the original tribes of the Coast Reservation.




Eliza Young: Brownsville Basketweaver


Eliza Young (Indian Eliza, Liza), was a native of the Mohawk Valley. The Mohawk Indians, were originally called the Peyu (Pee-you, Pe-u) Kalapuyans and were re-named by settlers after the river was renamed by early settler Jacob Spores. The Spores family had come from New York in 1847, the original homeland of the Mohawk Seneca peoples, and brought that name with him. It was a practice for settlers to  rename their new settlements with names they brought from their original settlements from the east.

Section of 1851 Gibbs Starling treaty map, Note Pe-U Creek, and the closeness of the Spores place

Eliza appears to have been orphaned, likely as a result of the epidemics, perhaps malaria, which raged through the region in the 1830’s. There may easily have been a number of recurrences of the disease in the southern part of the valley such that in the 1840s her parents and perhaps the whole tribe, died. Many early explorerers, Like David Douglas, reported abandoned villages in the 1830s. She may have come from one of two tribes that existed in 1855, the Peyu Band, or the Chifin band, as each had temporary reservations in 1855 within their lands in very close proximity to the Mohawk Valley. The Chifin reservation at the Spores DLC may be the origin of Eliza coming into the Spores household because the reservation notes stated that there was a native village in the property.  When the tribes were removed to Grand Ronde Reservation in February 1856, Eliza may have stayed behind, adopted by the Spores who then “raised” her.

Eliza’s father is suggested as being Tekopa Kalapuya, having lived along the Calapooia River. He marries a Peyu Kalapuya women, the tribe directly to the south, and they have Eliza sometime in the 1830’s.  By the  early 1840’s Eliza’s parents die, and she was likely a teenager when adopted into the Spores house. She likely spends the better part of the 1840’s with the Spores.  Its likely that they taught her American culture and English and she operated as a servant to the family doing the chores, cleaning and cooking. Later stories suggest she was a good cook and did laundry jobs around Brownsville, suggesting that her experience came from early-on being taught how to cook and clean by the Spores, perhaps as their servant. This was a very common practice among the early settlers to have both men and women from the Kalapuyans living in “guest houses” outside sheds, or the barn, while they worked for the settlers helping to establish and maintain their farms and households.

During Eliza’s life she is recorded as having two husbands, the first she leaves because he beats her. This is the Indian way of marriage, women could divorce their husband by leaving them, but in this case she was purchased. His last name is Spores, perhaps adopting the surname from the Spores family. Spores may have been Yamhill, or that may be an association with when the Spores family moved to the Yamhill area to go live at the Grand Ronde Reservation. It was a common occurrence among tribal people to adopt the name of an influential white settler. Some of the Spores family, go to Grand Ronde Reservation, and one man hangs himself in the Dallas jail because he killed his wife from the reservation. Eliza evidentally falls in love with Jim Young (Indian Jim) who  buys her for ten ponies, a gun and $15 in gold, and they move to Brownsville. Bride-purchase was very common for area tribes.  Most stories suggest that they never went to a reservation. However, there is an 1886 census entry for the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation of Jim Young, age 40, living with his wife Eliza, age 50, and their son, age 16. They are not mentioned in the census for 1885, nor 1887, so it appears that the family lived for about a year or less on the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation before returning to Brownsville. Perhaps they went to Grand Ronde to get an Indian allotment? Jim was in and out of trouble with the law for stealing and for fighting, and so these may have been factors in the family movement to Grand Ronde, and later movement back to Brownsville.

1886 Grand Ronde Census images

Jim Young gets into trouble with the law in 1870,  and is placed in the State Penitentiary twice for Larceny (#1 sentenced: July 2, 1870, released, January 14 1871; #2 sentenced December 4, 1871, released September 22, 1873). His records state larceny and grand larceny, and at least one settler account suggests murder. They have two children, a boy (L.B.- Albert) and a girl (Susan), both of whom die young, before having children. They are buried in the Brownsville Cemetery.  Eliza survives her husband, who died in a brawl, by several decades.  She supporting herself on the good will of some families in the community who host her by giving her a small cottage to live in. The Kirk family took care of Eliza early on when she was in Brownsville. (The Kirks arrive in the 1846 wagon train, and then leave to go to Pendleton.) Town stories suggest that she does day jobs laundry and cooking for people in the community until she goes blind, likely in her 70s.

Eliza is well-known for her weaving skills as she continues to practice her native art and makes woven basket handbags, purses, from traditional materials she gathers, like juncus. through much of her life. When she goes blind she continues to weave baskets. There are numerous photos of her, her baskets, and her cottage when she is apparently blind. Most museums in western Oregon have examples of her weavings. She dies on August 19, 1922.

The mythology of Indian Eliza continues to grow after she passes. Maude Turnbow, a local writer and historian, likely is responsible for some of this. Maude writes a series of articles about Eliza which are published in 1953, some republished from their original 1902 publication. In these articles Eliza is said to be the “Last of the Kalapuyans.” This is of course inaccurate as there are several hundred Kalapuyan people at the Grand Ronde Reservation at the time of her death and afterwards. She is said to be a blind basketmaker, likely accurate, and there are plenty of baskets identified as having been made by her to substantiate this. She is also said to have been over 100 years old, aclaim that is likely false. It is more accurate that she was in her 80’s when she died, which would align well with the assumed birth date in the 1830’s.

The townsfolk of Brownsville had very fond memories of Eliza. The original name of Brownsville is “Calapooia”, and it is renamed in the 1850s.The town stories are full of inaccuracies.

My mother was well acquainted with Indian Liza, who is commonly called “the last of the Calapooias.” Just how old Liza was when she died (about year 1932) no one knows. Liza often said she was over one hundred years old. However my mother lived next to Liza when Liza was young married woman with two small children. Mother at the time was about seventeen years old. (Lewis Tycer Crawfordsville)

Albert and Susan Young

The Last of the Calapooias by Maude Turnbow

In this city today, old blind and dependent upon charity, resides the last representative of the once powerful, brave and numerous Calapooia Indians, after whom the beautiful Calapooia Valley derives its name.  Where once the noble band of redmen trod the valley and mountains and dale undisturbed by the impatient palefaces now stands the peaceful city and farm dwelling. Civilization forced westward by the adventuring paleface has changed the face of nature where the tribe was wont to roam, so that today the last representative of the Calapooias- could she but see, would scarcely recognize a mark to distinguish the haunts of her childhood home.

Poor old Indian Liza, the last of the Calapooias. She is now very old and but a short time yet remains before she enters the happy hunting ground to join her ancestors! Aunt Eliza as she is familiarly calledis now wholly dependent upon the charity of the people who have known her for lo these many moons. She is now totally blind and resides alone in the eastern portion of the city. … Some pioneer friend of this interesting relic of by-gone days at her dictation has composed the following verses which pathetically tell the story of the Indian woman’s life.  (Register Guard Aug 25, 1953, repeated from Brownsville times July 4, 1902) [verses not transcribed]


Indian Liza dead- Last of Race

Indian Liza lived a life of varied experiences. In her childhood the members of her tribe roamed the valley, numerous and powerful. In a little over three quarters of a century she has seen the great tribe of the Calapooia disappear before the advance of civilization until she found herself the last one to depart to the happy hunting ground. Indian Lize, however was not a pure Calapooia. Her husband, a Calapooia brave, bought her from Lane county where she had lived at Spores Ferry. She was half Mohawk and half Calapooia. [Here is where there is a lack of knowledge about Oregon history] Her Husband’s name was Jim Indian, who served two terms in the penitentiary for murder. He was finally killed in a drunken brawl with a number of other Mohawk Indians. … Indian Liza had been blind for many years. Two children, Susan Indian and Elbee (L. B.) Indian are buried in the Masonic cemetery and beside them Indian Liza was laid to rest… (Eliza Young died sat aug 19 1922)

I saw a Calapooia Indian win a battle. This was in the Dry Goods Store in Brownsville about 1906 or 1907. Indian Liza was there having a big argument in a squawky, high-pitched voice of part English and part Indian. He nightgown was worn out, no good, the back full of holes and wouldn’t keep her warm. All she wanted was just enough outing flannel of any color to put a new back on it. The clerk was holding forth for the economy of a whole new gown, When it was over, Indian Liza had just enough for the back. She had just that much money anyway. She was brown, leathery of skim, thin drably dressed and blind, maybe 100 years old people thought. … She told my mother that before the white man came, her people used moose excrement for burns. Her hand was badly burned that day. Her death in August 1922 ended her race. (Maude Turnbow-RG June 21, 1953)

Eliza’s father was a full blooded Calapooia brave living on the Calapooia River in the upper valley. He wandered south into Lane County where he found his bride, and it was there that Eliza was born. He parents died when she was a small child and she was for a time actually a slave in the camps of other people. She ran away and was taken in and cared for by Joseph Spores and wife at what is now Coburg. Eliza, in search of her father’s people ran away from Spore’s Ferry to Brownsville. She was just entering into womanhood when the Blakely-Brown-Kirk emigrant train (1846) arrived at the old ford on the Calapooia. It is understood that she was cared for at a very early day by the Kirk family. But she slipped away and went into the Southland again and there married a Mohawk Brave. This man drank incessantly and beat Eliza unmercifully. She frequently ran away. A length Calapooia Jim, with the assistance of Riley Kirk, bought Eliza. Jim had been raised by Kirk since the farmer was 12 years old.  … Calapooia Jim was later killed in a brawl. Eliza supported herself as long as she could by making baskets but went blind. The County then placed her in a good home, where she was at, the time of her death…. Indian Eliza used to sit with the speakers at the Brownsville Pioneer Picnic, a place I avoided. (Maude Turnbow- RG June 22 1953)

Down at Spores Ferry, at Coburg, there was an Indian girl named Eliza, living with the Spores family. She was a good cook and very neat. She married a Yamhill Indian and went to live with him. He was very cruel to her and frequently beat her. On a trip to the Calapooia , or while living at Spores ferry, Eliza and Jim met and became fond of each other. After that Eliza often ran away from her husband and came down to the Calapooia to see Jim. Her husband who had three other wives, would follow her and compel her to return. He would ride behind her, she walking and whip her all the way back. This happened a number of times, finally my father (Riley Kirk) advised Jim to buy Eliza for a wife if he liked her so much. With my father’s aid Jim bought her for ten ponies, a gun and $15 in gold. Jim and Eliza were most commonly known as Indian Jim and Indian Liza, their real names were Jim and Eliza Young. (George Fruitt Letter 1953)

Eliza holds several distinctions. She lived most of her life off of a reservation and was well respected by a settler community. This was not always the case for tribal people who were living next to or within settelr communities, manytimes settlers would either harass them into leaving, or notify the authorities to remove the Indians to the reservation. Eliza’s story is also a very rare story of  Native woman in Oregon. The majority of narratives abotu Native peopels in Oregon are about men, and women are relegated to being supporters of men. It may be that the attention paid to Eliza by Maude Turnbow maintained her fame all of these years.

The research for this essay was aided by the Linn County Museum at Brownsville. They supplied the books of pioneer transcripts about their town, and numerous files of photos. All photos are courtesy of the museum. The project of the museum to correct and install a new exhibit about the Kalapuyan history of Linn County is being installed in June 2019.  Tom Connelly, Paul Baxter and I are co-curators of the exhibit with Melody Muger the project manager and museum executive officer.

Indian Implements acquired by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1873

Contemporaneous with the now famed Summers Collection, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was also collecting traditional implements from the tribes on reservations in the 1870s.

The Summers Collection is today a collection of some 600 articles from the tribes of Oregon. At least 300 of the articles are directly from the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation. Reverend Robert Summers, an Anglican minister was located in the 1870s in Mcminnville Oregon and extended his reach into the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation. There, Summers spend many days becoming friends with the Grand Ronde tribal people and purchasing traditional objects that they had and were using. Many of the artifacts that Summers collected dated from before the reservation began, meaning that they came to the reservation with the tribes in 1856. Many of them are trade items, acquired through trade with other tribes in the region. Summers kept very good notes about each object he acquired, rare for this time period, about their use, materials, the persons he acquired them from and their tribal culture. Summer was likely helped greatly by his wife who was a practicing naturalist. In the 1890s the collection was given to Reverend Freer, who transported the collection to Great Britain. The collection was then acquired by the British museum in 1900, and has remained there ever since. In 2018, the Grand Ronde Tribe was able to borrow, for about a year, 15 objects from the collection. The objects were on display at the Chachalu Museum at Grand Ronde in a exhibit, The Rise of the Collectors. During the year at Grand Ronde the objects were studied  by tribal cultural experts wishing to understand them better and to perhaps restore the technologies of the past.  In May 2019 the 15 objects were returned to the British Museum, as per the agreement. See my other article about the Summers.

Columbia River wooden spoon

The Summers collection was created in a time scholars have termed Salvage Anthropology. Anthropologists and other scholars in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were predicting that tribal peoples would someday go extinct because their populations were collapsing on the reservations. Anthropologists thought that if the tribal people were gone that their studies of tribal culture would also end.  Many anthropologists began to collect cultural objects from the tribes so that if the tribes disappeared they would have some record of their existance and something to study. These collections came to fill natural history museums throughout the world with millions of artifacts of tribal cultures. The vast majority of these collections have never had any meaningful studies done on them. Some objects were acquired through legal means, while many others were stolen or dug from the ground and taken from gravesites.

Iron pipe with lead inlay

Scholars today have severely criticised the notion of salvage anthropology because the anthropologists did nothing to aid the tribal peoples, the subjects of their research, who were trying to survive in the extremely corrosive  United States Reservation system, while they instead only “saved” cultural objects made by the tribes. This situation continued for some 100 years and it was not until the 1950s that anthropologists began to attend to the needs of the tribes for survival. In the 1970s, after a series of critical analyses of Anthropology by tribal scholars, Vine Deloria Jr. foremost among them, Anthropology as a science turned toward developing practices and methodologies which aided tribes, helped preserve culture and languages, and worked to help solve the problems tribal peoples experienced within the United States Political system. Today most anthropologists have aspects of their practices which develop longterm collaborative relationships with subject tribal peoples, and tribes now in many ways direct the activities of a vast number of researchers to solve issues in culture and society.

Columbia River bowl

The Salvage Anthropology period, inspired wider collection of native artifacts from grave sites and archaeological sites across the continent by Americans seeking to sell their acquisitions and enrich themselves. The United States federal government responded to problems presented by the “collectors”  by passing a series of laws protecting tribal gravesites and archaeological sites.

Columbia River Spoon

Before these laws began being passed in the early 20th century, the federal officials themselves became participating in the collections activities.  A letter uncovered in the Letters Sent by the Offices of Indian Affairs, the M234 microfilm set (reel 618) from 1873 suggests that the the Bureau of Indian Affairs was acquiring objects from the Indian offices on numerous reservations across the country. The letter addresses a circular sent out by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs directing the collection of “drinking and smoking” articles from the tribes. The objects sent back to the Commissioner, appear to be more than a dozen such drinking and smoking articles as directed. The following is a transcription of the letter of return.

Office of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs

Salem, Oregon March 25th 1873

Sir, In compliance with instructions from Hon. Commissioner Indian Affairs, dated January 25th 1873, to Agent Sinnott of Grand Ronde Agency, desiring “a collection of Indian implements used in drinking, smoking etc”., he has forwarded for transmission to your office the articles enumerated in the enclosed list all of which were duly mailed to you this day.

Very Respectfully

Your Obt. Servt.

J. B. Odeneal, Supt. Ind. Affairs in Oregon

By R.P. Earhart, clerk

Hon Commissioner Indian Affairs, Washington D.C.

List of articles forwarded from Grand Ronde Agency to Office of Superintendent for transmittal to Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

No 1  Drinking cup made from the horn of the Mountain Goat, and by the “Clackamas Indians”  as long as that tribe has existed, supposed to be upwards of 100 years. [some of these cups are actually spoons]

No 2  Drinking cup made of wood and by the “Santiam Tribe” of Oregon Indians.[Santiam Kalapuyan]

No 3  Pipe made of iron and lead smoked for forty years by “Wapato Dave”, Chief of Wapato Lake Indians of Oregon. [Dave Yachikawa- Tualatin]

No 4  Council Pipe of the “Wapato Indians” of Oregon, formerly and in all important occasions  from the best date obtainable seventy five years old. [likely Wapato Island or Multnomah]

No 5  Pipe in general use by one of the “Luckamute” tribe of Indians of Oregon. [Luckamiute Kalapuyan]

No 6  Spoon made of bone and by “Umpqua Indians” of Oregon.[this could be any one of several Umpqua tribes]

No 7  Sundry cups, spoons etc. from different tribes of the Willamette Valley. [mostly Kalapuyan, but possibly Molallan too]

The foregoing embraces all that can at present be obtained: all Indians on this Reservation now use the same kinds of pipes, spoons and cups as the whites.

The implications of the letter are startling. At about the same time as Summers was acquiring similar implements, a set of implements was also collected and sent to Washington, D.C. from Grand Ronde. The question is then, where did they end up? We can normally assume that most such ethnographic field collections would end up in the Smithsonian and perhaps are a part of the Museum of Natural History collections. This may very well be the case. A search of the NARA database online has not turned up any objects labelled Grand Ronde. There are numerous Oregon items and its possible that all of the objects sent were mis-filed, their information and context striped from them in the processes of the nearly 150 years of federal management. But another search of the Bureau of Indian Affairs has turned up another possibility.

The BIA has a museum, of several million objects. The BIA museum website is very limited and there does not appear to be any type of finding aid or collection which may be accessible in the internet. But there is another revelation, the Department of the Interior also has a Museum, of some 24 million objects which is similarly inaccessible. It is quite possible that these objects from Grand Ronde could have ended up in the DOI museum. The two museums, the BIA and DOI museums, are revelations which few people known much about. The scope of their collections appear to rival that of Museum of Natural History but without the public access that the Smithsonian allows.

Wood and Horn spoons at the Dept. of Anthropology, Smithsonian, 2014 David Lewis

Research continues on the BIA museum, and requests have been forwarded to those who may have more information. The images presented above are representative images of what these items may look like.


The Cabbage Head Decoy and other Linn County stories of the Kalapuyans

Fear of the Kalapuyans

Fearing of “Indians” in the 1850s in Oregon was a real and powerful thing among the white settlers. tribal people did not live like white people, dd not obey the laws of the United States and seemed to have their own harsh forms of justice. As such the humanity of the tribes was severely questioned and dismissed in numerous settler narratives of the region. Settlers and other used stereotypical characterizations fo the savage and heathen tribes to revalue and dehumanize them. once sufficiently dehumanized, tribes could then be destroyed and removed from the path of American progress, what has been termed “manifest destiny.” About many small communities there are stories of the savagery of the tribes, and the reactions by early settlers. This collection is from Linn County, Oregon.

In the mid-1850’s, the “Cayuse War” was happening in skirmishes along the Columbia, and many tribal chiefs of several tribes saw what was happening; that the “Whitemen” were coming in ever-increasing numbers and would soon take all the land and drive the Indians out. Molalla Chief Crooked Finger noted this, and participated in the actions of resistance and retribution towards the Whitemen, not unlike many other tribal leaders.  Numerous reports of small thefts in the valley, as well as numerous reports of Indian men, like Crooked Finger, entering White homesteads and ordering White women to cook for them, suggests that some tribal chiefs were exacting a form of retribution upon the settlers, for taking land without permission, for not paying the tribes, and for not paying deference to previous long-term tribal occupation and authority.

All of these conflicts in various regions of the Oregon Territory caused stress with settlers towards Indians. The fears of the settlers towards the tribes, were stirred in part by rumors, and later by stories and editorials published in the newspapers. The Statesman Journal in Salem was the “conservative” newspaper for Oregon at the time, and published numerous editorials and letters about Indian depredations upon White settlements on the Columbia and in Southern Oregon. Numerous letters published in the paper called for the “extermination of all Indians” before they could gather their forces and attack the Willamette Valley Settlements. Fears of an attack by a confederation of tribes caused the raising of volunteer militias from among the settler communities, who trained to resist attacks by Indian tribes. In fact only two such threats occurred in the Willamette Valley, the Battle Creek incident (1846), and the battle of Abiqua (1848). Both instances most likely involved outsider tribal visitors to the valley, Klamath bands. The militias worked to push the Klamaths out of the valley and back to their home territory, even though they were friends to the Molalla.

After 1851 the Oregon Gold Rush causes a similar response as genocidal gangs of white militia, also called Volunteers or Rangers, and paid by the Oregon Legislature, committed genocide on numerous Indian villages for minor depredations claims, like theft of cattle or horses. It is more likely that these actions of the Rangers caused the feared response. Additional attack on tribal centers at Chetco, Coquille and Crescent City cause tribes in the south to be on edge and ready for retribution against the Whitemen who stole their land, murdered their people and raped their women. In 1855, the tribes at Table Rock Reservation become fed up with the continued attacks on their people on the reservation and choose to act. The Rogue River Confederacy of tribes, gathered under Chief John and left the reservation to fight a total war against all settlers, in an attempt to drive the whites from their lands, take back their lands and save themselves from genocide.

There were increasing calls for extermination of the tribes during times when wars were raging in the region, which caused backlashes against the settlers from the tribes. Extermination fever was raging in northern California after 1849 as settlers and miners sought to claim the best resource rich lands, and in the process committed innumerable acts of genocide on the tribes in California and Oregon. Settlers and ranchers joined together as companies of Ranger militia, supported by the states of Oregon and California, and worked to exterminate villages of tribes in the region encompassing northern California and southern Oregon. General John E. Wool, Commander of the Pacific, investigated the allegations of tribal aggression and determined that the blame belonged solely to the whites, publishing his opinion and report in the newspapers of the time.

The authority for the militias began with early fears of an uprising of the tribes among prominent pioneers in 1843 when these fears prompted them to begin forming the Oregon Provisional Government. In 1841-43, during the Wolf Meetings these prominent settlers gathered, wrote, and voted upon laws for the new government, including a law to form an Oregon militia, created in order to protect the American settlements from Indian attacks. Some scholars suggest that the whole reason for forming the government was to protect the settlements from the Indians. This may have been one of the reasons; the other being to secure Oregon for the United States, and away from Great Britain.

Military and volunteer actions on the Columbia, at Yakima, and in the Rogue River Valley, against tribal confederacies caused there to be a lot of tension in the Willamette Valley towards tribal people.

Much of the fears by these settlers were stirred by real fears that the war on the Columbia, against the Yakima and Columbia Tribes, would spill into the Willamette Valley, and include the Kalapuyans and Molallans. In fact, there were federal records of Klickitat Indians going among the tribes to attempt to form a larger confederacy, and of Klickitat bands serving as the middle-men traders of guns and munitions with tribes in conflict areas, like Rogue River.  For the Kalapuyans, the reality was that they were so devastated in the 1830’s by diseases that they had little will or people to make war against the Whitemen, even if they saw themselves losing all their lands and rights. As well, the Kalapuyans and Chinookans had begun the process of integrating their society with that of the white settlers. The settlement culture employed Native people as general laborers for agriculture, woodworking, hunting, fishing, and there was much intermarriage between the two peoples. By the 1840s the Kalapuyans were so immersed in culture change, and assimilation, that they were not going to join a confederation to eject the settlers from their lands.

Still, the stereotypes of tribal societies were common among the settlers. Some people in Linn County recalled times when they feared the local tribes. There had never been any conflict with the Kalapuyans in the county, and so their fears were built upon, in part, much misinformation in local newspapers from editorials written to demonize tribes. This editorializing helped create a layer of mis-characterization, helping settlers feel that they may be ethically eliminated, killed and removed, once they were commonly thought of as somehow less than human, more akin to wolves,  and therefore less deserving of any rights in society.

“Mother has often told me how one day while picking blackberries on the Muddy Creek, near where the Oakville Cemetery is situated, a large and ugly looking Indian suddenly came upon her and how she ran home like a frightened rabbit.” (Agnus Smith, Peoria, p. 92)

“The Indians along the Calapooia in Linn County were almost always harmless and peaceable. However during the Rogue River Indian troubles everyone was nervous and anxious. We had one Indian scare during that time. My father was away at Albany and my oldest brother was cutting wood along the river at some distance from home. He saw some Indians passing through the country and ran home to report that Indians are coming. My mother has just hung out a wash to dry and was baking. She has some cookies in the oven but she left everything just as it was and started out with his family to seek safety. They went away as far as the Shedd farm where Shedd now stands. There they met a man and told them their troubles. He said “I do not think that the Indians mean any harm. I will go back with you.” When mother had put out the wash to dry she hung one red handkerchief across the head of a cabbage in the garden.  When they came near home my brother said “I see one Indian, See his red head down near the house.” The man then said , “If it is an Indian I will shoot him. He shot, the supposed Indian did not move. He shot again. He said, “I am sure I didn’t miss it. If it is an Indians he is dead.” They went up and found the red handkerchief on the cabbage head with two bullet holes in it.” … (Thomas Bird Sprenger- Shedd, p. 22)

“The Indians were very numerous about this valley when I was a boy. It is the truth that I used to see many more Indians than whites, but that was because the Indians were always traveling about and the whites stayed at home and worked and attended to their affairs. An old Indian would come along in the rainiest day, turn his ponies loose and settle down to camp without any other shelter than a big fir tree. Sometimes they became very troublesome, but it was rather dangerous to try to restrain them. However, it is said that Riley Kirk, father of Andrew Kirk, who still lives in Brownsville, would thrash the Indians soundly whenever they became too troublesome, a thing that most settlers did not dare to do.” (Lewis Tycer, Crawfordsville)

“At one time in the early days, there was a great Indian scare in their neighborhood. Something startled my sisters family and they ran out from their home and ran to the nearest neighbors. They joined them in their flight and so the panic spread from neighbor to neighbor and from house to house. One woman who was carrying a small child, hit the child’s head against a tree in her flight, and for a time it was feared that its head had been crushed. All finally took refuse among deep brush in a deep canyon. There they waited throughout the night. Once while they were waiting they heard the dogs back at the settlement begin to bark, & they said to each other “now the Indians are at the cabins. They will carry off everything that we have and burn the houses.” In the morning however when they finally returned cautiously they found their houses still standing and not a thing touched. It was finally decided that the cause of the panic was the low flight of an immense flock of wild geese, which, confused in storm and fog had dropped very low and frightened a band of horses. These horses, stampeding through the night had been mistaken for wildly riding Indians.” (Lewis Tycer, Crawfordsville)

Alsea Valley, 1854, Once when mother was alone with the children the Indians had a camp just across the river. In a drunken quarrel their chief was killed. Mother could hear the shouts and screams and expected any minute they would cross the river and attack the cabin. Father was out of the Valley at the time working. (Thomas Judson Risley, Alsea, p.82)

Relationships with the Kalapuyans

From the 1830’s to the 1850’s, before the tribes were removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation (1856) the Kalapuyan tribes were living in their homelands alongside the white American settlers. The settlers to Donation land claims, registering their claims at Oregon City’s General Land Office without regards to the previous settlement of the tribes. In a sense the settlers treated them as either a class of indentured servants, or as a vermin they put up until the federal government removed them. The Kalapuyans, for their part accepted settlement of the whites, as they saw the great wealth in new things brought to them. Metals, fabrics, weapons, and beads for jewelry were much sought after. But with settlement came diseases, competition for food and land, and competing worldviews. Tribal people would envision the whites first as neighbors, where they could count on them in times of need, while the white settlers saw the tribes mostly as a nuisance, and would not share their property, food, or good will with the Indians. The settlement itself by the Americans was technically illegal, because none of the land had been purchased from the tribes until the second treaties signed from 1853 to 1855 were ratified. Tribal laws and former occupational rights were ignored, regardless of the Northwest Ordinance, or any statements of tribal lands rights by the Oregon Provisional government.

During the intervening years, there were many levels of trust paid to the tribes as both peoples sought to live together.  Some settlers formed good bonds of trust with tribes, respected them even, and got along well.  Some relations were very poor as tribal people challenged the patience of the Americans who refused to try to understand what the tribal nations were experiencing. Much of the abhorrent behavior of the tribes was likely based on the stress of several generations of loss from diseases, of lost land, of lost family, of culture, of pride, and of sovereignty or agency over the situation of their tribe. During settlement, the Kalapuyans lost vast food resources which were plowed under or fenced away from their normal traditional gathering practices. Deer and elk were hunted out and salmon and other fishes were fished and canned away. Begging for food from the stingy white was futile. Starvation became the motivation for many tribal people to begin stealing from the whites and taking what little they could to survive in their lands.

The following are experiences from the settlers passed down through the generations. The grandparents and parents who experienced the Kalapuyan people, saw symptoms of the losses of the tribes. In many ways, the tribes also influenced the settlers as they took roles in society, introducing new foods, providing labor and trade, and exhibiting unique and exotic ceremonial entertainment.

“The Indians often came to the house to beg for food. One day my mother was sewing near a window when suddenly she noticed that the light was shut off. She looked up and there was a sick Indian looking in. He made motions and asked for “Camas” “Blue Flower”. Mother has no camas and made him understand he was free to look for it anywhere on the place. We never ate the Camas as we always had plenty of flour and meat without resorting to Indian foods.”   (Thomas Bird Sprenger- Shedd)

“when the Ridgeway ferry was running the Indians would come to cross on it and especially when drunk, would make some trouble. There was one bad Indian (named “Three finger Jack”). One day he was at the ferry and making trouble. Father tried to quiet him and he aimed his gun at father and fired, but, fortunately missed. Most of the Indians were good. When we were young mother always had a big Indian woman to do her washings. There were no electric washing machines then. Just a washboard and hand made soap”. (George and Joseph Smith -who’s father was George Messersmith- Ridgeway p.6.)

“The Indians ate many roots and fruits which I do not know, but I do remember the sacks of camas which they sometimes carried with them. One year an Indian brought a sack of dried camas and left it with my father to keep for him. There was a little hole in the bottom corner of the sack. I was very fond of dried camas, and whenever I happened near the sack I would reach into that hole and take out some to eat. When the Indian returned the sack was decidedly empty, and the Indian was very angry. Father pacified him by telling him to go into the garden and help himself to whatever he thought fair. The Indian filled two or three sacks of carrots, beets, turnips, etc. and went away feeling better.” (Lewis Tycer, Crawfordsville)

“When I was small my father used to grow hops. He was among the first to secure Indian help from the Siletz Reservation for his hop picking. In those days it was no possible to just go out and hire individual Indians to pick, but all business had to be transacted through some chief or agent who would bring in a crew at the required time. The old Indian whom my father used as a go-between was called Wappato Dave. He was the hardest looking Indian that I knew in all my life. He said “Indian big fool, let white man come. Indian should shoot white men when few. Then have land like old time. Now too many white men, no can do.” He meant every word of it to.” (George B. Wells, Buena Vista, p.56)  

“When the Indians came about in the early days, they were always anxious to receive food. They almost always seemed hungry. My parents always gave them food, and they appreciated it greatly. My mother used to tell an amusing anecdote about one old Indian who came to her house. This old Indian came along “heap hungry” and asked for something to eat. Mother gave him food then asked his which he would like, coffee or milk. He answered, “I take coffee and milk.” Mother brought him out both, and he would eat a bit and then take a sip of coffee, eat a little but more and then take a sip of milk, and so on. It was very amusing.” (A.T. “Bud” Morris, Sweet Home. p.23)

“The old Arlington Hotel one of the first hotels in north Brownsville stood at the north-east corner of North Main and Spalding avenue. I can remember when it was being built. When the foundation was completed and the ground floor laid the people of the town celebrated and hired a lot of Indian hop-pickers to come and hold a war-dance on the new floor. They painted up and put on their full dress and howled and danced for hours. I can remember my sister Josie and I hanging on to our mother’s dress and watching them, scared to death of the yelling savages.”(Perry Ross, Brownsville. p.77)

“the first house on Father’s claim was a log cabin, built in 1851… the cabin was near a small creek and nearby was a favorite camping place of the local Indians but father always said that they were good and honest people, better to get along with than most white people. Father often had to go for supplies to Oregon City and leave his family alone.  There were one or two Indian families who were especially friendly and honest. When father was about to leave home he would speak to these families and ask them to care for mother and the children. They would immediately move their camps across the creek and camp closely surrounding our cabin. In that way they kept at a distance the bothersome members of the village.” (Clara C. Morgan Thompson, Saddle Butte, Shedd, p.83)

“Milton Hale was always very good to the Indians and got along well with them. He owned the land near the old ferry on the Santiam near the town of Syracuse, and on that land there was a cemetery. When Old Lucy and Old Pete died Milton Hale took them to the old family cemetery near Syracuse and had them buried there.” (Emma Sneed, Albany)

“John Crow… bought the claimed [land] rights of Chief Buckskin Bill, a Calapooia and a close friend to Skookum John known as the Indian rail maker of Lane County [Loraine, Oregon & Crow Road]. Few people know that the Indians made most of the rails for the “Pioneer worm fences.” Skookum John and his band of Indians made the rails for the McAlisters, Daniel Lucas, A.J. Barlow… John Crow, … and many other pioneer settlers of the late 1840’s and early 1850’s. Skookum John … was a powerful man. His wife was named Mary. After the death of my grandfather in 1868, Skookum John and his wife Mary, moved to the Gibson ranch  ten or fifteen miles west of Eugene. They set up quarters for him and he worked for the Gibsons many years. There is a story that when very old, Mary would beg Skookum John to kill her and get her out of her misery. Old Skookum John would pet her and cheer her the best he knew. So it went for several years. Someone at the Gibson ranch killed a wild hog, skinned it and put the green hide in a smoke house. Mary discovered this and knowing there Skookum Jon was working, and also knowing that he always took a gun with him, she put on this wild boar skin and went on hands and knees through the timothy on the other side of the fence from Skookum. She grunted like a hog and Skookum John grabbed his gun, poked it through the fence and shot his wife, Mary at the “butt of the ear,” killing her instantly. Court investigations were made, but Skookum John was released without censure.” (Register Guard July 20, 1953)

The essay was assembled to help inform a new exhibit at the Linn County Historical Museum in Brownsville which is being installed in May and June 2019. The research for this essay was conducted in the summer of 2018 with the aid of the staff at the museum and using  their set of settler narratives. This selection is not comprehensive.

Umpqua Valley Settlers Murder Klikitat Farmers: Dick Johnson’s Family Story, by Sallie Applegate Long

The story of the Dick Johnson and Old Mummy murders of 1858, was of well known Klikitat settlers in that period. None less than the prominent and politically powerful Applegate Family who lived in Yoncalla, Oregon, were their friends and neighbors and tried to help Dick and his extended family of in-laws maintain their settlement in the Umpqua Valley. Letters from Jesse Applegate in this era were received by Territorial politicians and the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, James W. Nesmith, first to help the family secure their land in the Umpqua Valley, then to help stave off the impending attacks by white settlers, and finally after the murders, there was a flurry of correspondence attempting to get the territorial and the federal officials to bring the murderers to justice. But, Indians in this time, by territorial law, could not testify in a court of law, and so there were no legitimate witnesses to testify against the murderers.

Native peoples between 1850 and 1855 could have gotten a land claim if they were dissociated with a tribe. Dick Johnson and his family did not have such a claim, only a letter from the superintendent allowing them to remain on their land. This was not enough for some of the white settlers in the Umpqua basin. As you read the following narrative you can see that the family was constantly being harassed, just because they were Indians. The  Klikitat people were not originally from Oregon but were well known for coming into Oregon to hunt elk, especially on the Umpqua River. There were numerous Klikitat people who chose to break off from the main band and take up residence in the new American settlements. They normally would be laborers for the white farmers. Old Chief John who lived in locations near Oregon City and near Blue Lake, was one of these Klikitat settlers, as well as William McKay (pronounced Ma-kye) who settled in Dallas, Oregon and married a native woman of the Grand Ronde Reservation.

The writer of this narrative is Sallie Long, one of Jesse Applegate’s daughters. She was clearly intimately involved in the history of the area and was present when the events happened. It would be a future project to integrate Long’s memory here, with other Applegate accounts in letters in the future. Long is writing to the Oregon Historical Society, suggesting that George Himes, the President of the Society, use her narrative in some way. A search of the OHQ has yet to turn up a story in print associated with Long. The Reed College Bulletin, however, appears to have printed a version of the story, as well as a version in the book Jesse Applegate: A Dialogue with Destiny by Leta Lovelace Neiderhaiser.

The following is yet another story of how Tribal peoples in Oregon had no rights to freely live like other people. There were a few laws but the laws could be easily manipulated to make white settlers blameless. It did not matter if the Natives in question were assimilating, living quietly and at peace, and finding ways to integrate into American society, exactly as the Federal government wanted them to do. A few racially charged settlers could still take whatever actions they wanted and destroy the native peoples and take their lands without any worries of being held responsible for their actions. Its is startling that this story, and those of the multitudes of other native peoples who had the same treatment in the West, is not being taught in our history books as US history.

The family consisted of Dick Johnson and his wife and two (I Think) little children- his sister- (name I think was Eliza) and her husband “Jim” and her little son (four or five years old) old “Lemyei” Dick’s mothers and her husband- not Dick’s father- “Old Mummy”. These were very old people- some one had named him “Old Mummy” and told him it meant a “very old person” which name was then accepted in good faith by the simple kindly old fellow. We sincerely liked the Johnson family- Mamma always enjoyed a visit from “Old Lemyei” very much- and the young woman Eliza was very intelligent talked easily- was clean and neat, in person and dress, Dick’s squaw who was an Umpqua was inferior to the others in appearance and intelligence. “Old Lemyei” like a true mother in-law did not think her good enough “Cultus Cloochman Hilloo amy Tillacum” She was young, fat and sleek looking, liked red handkerchiefs and shawls- beads etc.- Lemyei in spite of her age was straight, tall, and lean, walked with a long, strong step, wore always upon her head a little conical shaped basket from below which, her long straight hair , mixed with white, hung down her back. I don’t remember ever seeing it braided, but it was tied back with a leather string sometimes, once there were big red and blue beads on the ends of this string which took my fancy, and the old woman noticed me looking at them- so she said to Mamma “Nica-ticka saplil pe musum gleese- ict tenas me Cloochman ticka nica beads- Spose close-copa mica?” Which meant that if Mamma was willing, that she would give me the beads- and I should get her a piece of bread and butter- Sapalil pe musum gleese- The exchange was made. They were the kindliest, friendly people I ever knew, never obtrusive, never saucy, very industrious, very honest, every promise was kept, every debt was paid. My father kept a little store, and they bought a good many things for which they paid promptly- dressed deerskins were a legal tender, smoked venison, wild nuts and berries, all members of the family worked. Their little farm was not by any means the best land then unoccupied, it was away from any of the white settlers in a little nook in the hills where it would not seem that it would be coveted by anyone. They had 2 little log cabins some log outhouses for their horses- and fowls- all made by themselves, a small field where they raised wheat for their bread, and the oats for their horses- a nice little orchard, with peach and apple trees in bearing. Their desire to be like white people was intense, and every kind of useful plant, seed, or shrub, that was given them, was carefully planted, and tended. When the first gooseberries came on their bushes, they took samples of them to their white friends with the utmost pride and gratitude. They went to their grain fields step by step and pulled out all injurious weeds from amongst the growing crop- such as tarweed, thistles etc.- no one had such nice clean crops. The women asked to be taught the secret of making patch work quilts, which they greatly admired, and with the patient persistence for which they are renowned mastered, and practiced, this very laborious and useless art- that is I mean the two young women – Eliza and Mary- Old Lemyei made no attempt to imitate the mechanical arts of the white man. While the two young women wore the fashions of their white sisters and attended church (they were great church people) in ruffles and collars and cuffs.

Old Lemyei stalked about in her red blanket and basket head dress- an Indian. Strolling Methodists were the most frequent teachers of religion- in those early days. They visited us about once a month. The Indians usually attended meeting. I don’t know how much they understood of the sermons- but they liked the music which was altogether vocal- every body singing at once.  Many Ideas are the children of custom- and I who have spent a life time on the outskirts of civilization- still believe that the truest worship went up from little log cabins of the Pioneers, borne on the voices of those untrained singers. That was before we learned to praise with a machine.

The Indians bought leather and made their own harness- in imitation of that used by their neighbors- learned their little ponies to work. Mrs. “Jim” acquired a side saddle and rode like her white sisters- Mrs. Dick tried it but as she always had a “pappoose” to carry- gave up the idea. But “Old Lemyei” rode her Indian saddle with a foot on each side till the end. The Indian saddle was queer looking affair- made of undressed hide stretched over a wooden frame the principal part of which was a forked stick.

Dick came often and consulted with my father in regard to his affairs- and my father wrote letters on his behalf to the different Indian agents- who gave him permits to stay on his little farm. But they did not seem to have power to protect him in the enjoyment of his labor, or to avenge his murder. The Constitution of Oregon at that time did not permit an Indian to become a witness- and the only witnesses of the murder of Dick Johnson and Old Mummy were their women and children- Jim was away from home.

Old man Canady coveted the little farm, more from the improvements than the value of the land- for at that time there were thousands of acres of vacant land in this county- better in location and quality than this- he ordered the Indians to vacate a number of times- and threatened them. My father advised Dick to be very careful to give no plausible cause of complaint and explained to him his defenseless condition but with his letters from the agents and his strict avoidance of offense he hoped to overcome the enmity of his foe. Different acts of aggression were committed against him to provoke some word or deed which could be seized as an excuse. On one occasion a big white brute John Marshal- jumped onto “Old Mummy” at Camp Meeting and beat him cruelly because he was an “Injun” – a circumstance for which the poor old fellow was not entirely to blame- as he had not been allowed any choice in that matter. It was expected that Dick would resent this outrage- and no doubt he wanted to do so, but he realized its purpose, as did “Old Mummy” himself.

It was early one evening that the murder was committed. The twilight was just coming- Old Mummy was the first of the family to be killed, he was out in front of the house cutting some wood to start the fire- and the first shot was fired at him through his back. He fell forward across the stick of wood- and was found there by those who came to bury them. Dick on hearing the shot run out of the cabin and seeing at once what had happened- tore open his shirt and turned his naked bosom towards the murderers, saying “shoot if you wish it!” They shot him at once.

[Jesse Applegate’s accounts state that it was Dick who chopping wood and was shot first and found slumped over the wood, and Mummy second and Jim was shot at and grazed by the bullet which killed his horse. There were eight men in the posse, three of whom hid in the woods and five confronted the Johnsons, the first stated he was Nesmith (James Nesmith, Superintendent of Oregon Indians), which Dick knew was a lie.  Charlotte Blake, Jesse Applegate: His Attitude Toward the Oregon Indians, Reed College Bulletin, November 1942]

The women and children fled to a little gully or ravine close by and hid in it- but I think no attempt was made to hurt them. “Jim” arrived home in time to see something of the matter but too far away to interfere in any way. He was unarmed and I suppose afraid. He hid from the party of murderers and as soon as he got a chance made a run for the house. He was shot at but not hurt. Soon as they were gone he gathered the women and children together and took them to the house of some friends R. Smith in Yoncalla valley. A party of settlers gathered at once when the word came to them. Went to the place and held an inquest. My father was one of these. The Indians lived in Rice valley south and west of Yoncalla Valley.

I remember my father telling that at the Inquest Old Lemyei stripped the shirt from “old Mummy’s” back and sitting down beside the body placed one finger on the bullet hole then pointed it straight at the face of an old man present- and said in plain jargon [Chinuk wawa] “Your son did this”- “The old man shook like a person with ague.” My father said- This was old man Allen- John Allen the son lives near Drain at present, the only one of the murderers band that is left. There was an attempt to bring the murderers to justice, but there were no witnesses to the deed who were permitted to give testimony. And the ashes were not cold upon the desolated hearth stone, when one of them, moved into the little cabin. There was a nice little field of grain growing two fat pigs in the pen- wheat and oats in the barn- hay in the little stable- chickens and geese- several cows. The friends of the Indians protected them in removing all movable property and live stock- but “Jim” a cowardly fellow would not attempt to live on the farm- and the family finally went to the Reservation and finally back to the same savage condition from which­­­ Dick had made such heroic efforts to rise.

What I have written you is my impression and memories when I get some accounts from the old people that I shall visit as I have time- I will write them to you, just as they are given me- perhaps they will not agree with what I have written in all respects. You will be judge and jury.

Lemyei, Dick and Jim’s wife, were Clickitats- Mummy perhaps the same. Lemyei told my mother that Dicks father was a “skookum Tyee” [Strong chief]. That he was killed in war. That she and her children became the property, or slaves of his conquerors, another chief, or tribe. That she hated her new owners. That Mummy helped her to escape with her children- and she never returned to her people. But once she and Mummy were gone for several months- some where north- when they returned she told my mother that she had been to visit her “Illahee.” [land]

Further records suggest that the family did indeed go to the Grand Ronde Reservation, likely for protection from this type of treatment. Dick’s wife Lemyei died there in the early 20th century.

From the Meacham Collection at the Oregon Historical Society.

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