Home -> Miscellaneous Books -> Reminiscences of a Pioneer -> Chapter 10 - Treaty With the Modocs Made

Previous Page Home
Up One Level
Next Page

Chapter X.

Treaty With the Modocs is Made.

On the 14th day of October, 1864, the Modocs entered into a treaty with the Federal government by which they ceded all rights to the Lost river and Tule lake country for a consideration of $320,000. In addition to this they were to receive a body of land on the Klamath reservation of 768,000 acres, or a little more than 420 acres for each man, woman and child. Immediately after the ratification of the treaty all the Modoc Indians moved to the lands allotted to them, where the tribe remained, and yet remains. This may be news to most of my readers, but it is a fact that the Modoc Indians as a tribe continued to keep faith with the government. The band under Captain Jack were merely renegades who, dissatisfied with their new home, left the reservation and went back to Lost river and Tule Lake. Jack himself was wanted for murder, and sought an asylum in the lava beds, or the country adjacent thereto, where he gathered around him renegades from other tribes - renegades outlawed by Indians and whites alike. Some of the Indians in Jack's band were from the Columbia river region, others from coast tribes, and all were outlaws. One of the leaders, Bogus Charley, was an Umpqua Indian and was raised by a white man named Bill Phips. He spoke good English and asked me about many of the old timers.

In securing his ascendancy over this band of outlaws Jack was assisted by his sister, "Queen Mary," so-called, who lived many years with a white man near Yreka. In the opinion of Captain I. D. Applegate. Mary was the brains of the murderous crew who gathered in the "hole in the wall," under her brother. She was the go-between for the Indians with the whites about Yreka, where they did their trading and where they supplied themselves with arms and ammunition, and it was through her that Judge Steele, a lawyer of Yreka, was interested in getting a reservation for them. Steele made a trip to Washington to plead their cause, and received a fee of $1000. He failed, but held out hope to his clients and urged them under no circumstances to go back to their lands at Klamath, advising them as counsel to take up lands in severalty under the pre-emption laws of the United States. It is charitable to suppose that Judge Steele did not foresee the disastrous consequences of his counsel, yet he knew that Jack was wanted at the Klamath agency for murder. In furtherance of his advice he wrote the following self-explanatory letter to Henry Miller, afterwards murdered in a most barbarous manner by the very men whom he had befriended:

Yreka, Sept. 19, 1872.

Mr. Henry F. Miller - Dear Sir: You will have to give me a description of the lands the Indians want. If it has been surveyed, give me the township, range, section and quarter-section. If not, give me a rude plat of it by representing the line of the lake and the line of the river, so that I can describe it . . . Mr. Warmmer, the County Surveyor, will not go out there, so I will have to send to Sacramento to get one appointed. Send an answer by an Indian, so that I can make out their papers soon. I did not have them pay taxes yet, as I did not know whether the land is surveyed and open for pre-emption.

Respectfully yours,
E. Steele.

Other letters were written by Judge Steele to the Indians. One which was taken to Mrs. Body to read for them advised them not to go to Klamath, but to "remain on their Yreka farm," as he termed the Tule Lake and Lost river country, and told them they had as good a right to the lands as any one. He further told them to go to the settlers and compel them to give them written certificates of good character to show to the agents of the government, which they did, the settlers fearing to refuse. Shortly after this, Mr. T. B. Odeneal, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, attempted to have a conference with Jack, who flatly refused, saying he was tired of talking; he wanted no white man to tell him what to do; that his friends and counselors at Yreka had told them to stay where they were.

Under these circumstances the settlers became alarmed and made the Superintendent promise that they should be notified before any attempt to use force was made. How that promise was carried out will appear later on. Early in November, after repeated attempts to induce the Indians under Jack to go peaceably back to the reservation, Superintendent Odeneal determined to turn the matter over to the military. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs directed him to put the Indians back, peaceably if he could, by force if he must. He then referred the whole matter to Major Jackson, then in command at Fort Klamath, who had at his disposal thirty-six men of Company B, First cavalry, and proceeded with his command to Linkville, where he was met by Captain I. D. Applegate, at that time connected with the Indian department and stationed at the Yainax reservation. Captain Jackson was warned by Applegate of the desperate character of the Indians, but informed him the force was sufficient in his opinion if proper precautions were taken. In the meantime Mr. Odeneal had sent his messenger, O. A. Brown, to notify the settlers. Instead he proceeded to the Bybee ranch, carefully concealing from all the proposed movements of the troops under Jackson. Afterwards when reproached by Mrs. Schira, whose husband, father and brothers had been murdered, he gave the heartless answer that he "was not paid to run after the settlers." After realizing the full extent of his conduct - conduct that could not be defended any other way - Brown attempted to cast the odium upon his superior, Mr. Odeneal. However, the latter had a copy of his letter of instructions, hence Brown lapsed into sullen silence.

Major Jackson started for the Indian encampment on Lost river on the 28th of November, leaving Linkville, now Klamath Falls, after dark. He was accompanied by Captain Applegate, and he had supplied his men with twenty rounds of ammunition. Before reaching the encampment he halted his men, saddle girths were tightened, overcoats tied behind saddles and carbines loaded. It was then nearly daylight and proceeding with caution he reached the encampment just at daylight. It was understood that the command was to be divided so as to strike the camp on two sides, thus commanding the river bank and the brush back of the camp at one and the same time. Instead of this, Captain Jackson galloped his troop in between the river and the camp and dismounted, his men forming a line with horses in the rear.

While all this was going on another force, consisting of a dozen settlers, had come down from the Bybee ranch to capture the Hot Creek band on the opposite side of the river from Jack's camp. O. A. Brown had arrived there in the evening but said nothing to any one until 2 o'clock in the morning, when he roused them up and told them that the soldiers would attack the Indians at daylight. They arrived just as Jackson lined his men up on the opposite side. Jud Small, a stock man, was riding a young horse and at the crack of the first gun his horse began bucking. Everything was confusion, the men retreating to a small cabin a hundred yards away, except Small, who was holding on to his horse for dear life all this time. Over wickiups, squaws, bucks and children the frightened beast leaped. Just how he got out safe among his companions Small never knew, but he escaped, only to be desperately wounded in the first fight in the lava beds, and later finding a watery grave in Klamath river while sailing a pleasure boat.

After dismounting his men, Major Jackson requested Captain Applegate to go forward among the Indians and tell them they must surrender and go back to the reservation. But scarcely had Captain Applegate reached the center of the village, when he saw the women running and throwing themselves face downward in a low place between the two lines. He at once called to Lieutenant Boutelle to "look out, they are going to fire." Scarcely had the words escaped his lips when the Indians, concealed under their wickiups, opened a galling fire on the line of troops. Applegate made his way back to the line as best he could and as he reached the line he picked up a carbine that had fallen from the hand of a wounded soldier. The poor fellow had just strength enough to unbuckle his belt and hand it to Captain Applegate, who now called to Lieutenant Boutelle that "if we don't drive them out of their camp they will kill us all." Boutelle then ordered a charge, and drove the Indians out of their camp, through the brush and out into the open hills beyond. But this was accomplished by the loss of several men killed and wounded. One Indian had been killed, a Columbia, one of the most desperate of the renegade band. When Applegate got back to where Jackson was standing he had all the women and children gathered around him and while several men had been killed or wounded, he deemed the trouble at an end.

While the above events were transpiring, Dave Hill, a Klamath Indian, swam the river and drove in all the Modocs' horses. With the women, children and horses in their possession all that remained for Captain Jackson to do to insure the surrender of the men, was to take them to the reservation and hold them. What was the surprise of Captain Applegate, therefore, when Jackson announced his intention of turning them all loose. In vain he and Dave Hill protested, but to no purpose. Jackson declared he was short of ammunition; besides, must care for his wounded men. He then told the squaws to pack up their horses and go to the men and tell them to come to the reservation. No more mad, idiotic piece of folly was ever perpetrated by a man than this move of Captain Jackson.

While they were talking two travelers were seen riding along the road some hundreds of yards away. In vain the men on both sides of the river attempted to warn them of danger. The Indians were seen to ride up to them and deliberately shoot them down. This of itself should have warned Jackson of the desperate character of the outlaws. But no, he was either too cowardly to act intelligently or too indifferent of the consequences to act as he was advised. In fact, there is a certain class of army officers who deem it a disgrace to accept advice from a civilian. At any rate he crossed his wounded men over the river in canoes to the cabin held by the party of stock men, and mounting his men went six miles up the river to the ford and put the river between himself and command and danger.

As soon as the squaws and children reached the men, a party headed by "Black Jim" mounted and started down the shores of the lake butchering the settlers. They came first to the Body ranch, where the men were getting wood from the hills and heartlessly butchered them in cold blood. The manner is best told in Mrs. Body's own words in a letter to me in which she says:

"I reside three miles from the Indian camp on Lost river. The Indians had told us time and again that if the soldiers came to put them on the reservation they would kill every white settler. Through hearing of these threats, we requested the messengers never to come with soldiers without first giving the settlers warning. This they failed to do. . . . The male portion of my family, not being aware of any disturbance, were out procuring firewood, and were suddenly attacked within a mile and a half of the house and butchered in cold blood. About a quarter to twelve my daughter saw her husband's team approaching the house at a rapid gait, and as the team reached the house she noticed that the wagon was covered with blood. Thinking the team had run away she ran up the road to find him. About a quarter of a mile from the house she discovered him. I hastened after her with water, and as I arrived at the spot my daughter was stooping over the body of her husband. Six Indians then dashed out of the brush on horseback. Two of them rode up to me and asked if there were any white men at the house. Not dreaming that there was anything wrong with the Indians, I told them that the team had run away and killed white man. They then gave a warwhoop and rode off towards the house. On examining my son-in-law, we found that he had been shot through the head. We then knew that the redskins were on the warpath, and determined to find the other men. Going a short distance we found my eldest son killed and stripped naked. The four horses were gone. About a quarter of a mile further on we saw more Indians in the timber where my husband was chopping wood, so we concluded we had better not go any further in that direction, and made our way to the hills. My youngest son, a boy of thirteen years of age, was herding sheep about a mile from the house when he was killed. They shot him and then cut his throat. We continued to travel until it became too dark to discern our way, and then sat down at the foot of a tree and stayed until daylight. We then started again, not knowing where we were going, but hoping to strike some house. There was two feet of snow on the ground and our progress was slow and tedious. Finally we arrived at Lost river bridge about 2 o'clock Saturday afternoon. Here we learned for the first time that there had been a fight between the soldiers and Indians. If the settlers had been warned in time not one white person would have been killed, as we all had arms and ammunition sufficient to defend themselves successfully."

The Brotherton Family was not killed until the next day. They lived eight miles south of the Bodys, and like the latter were attending to their duties about the ranch. A twelve-year-old boy, Charley Brotherton, while the Indians were killing the hired man, cut one of the horses loose from the wagon and escaped to the house, where he built a pen of sacks of flour in the center of the floor to protect his mother and the little children and with a rifle held the savages at bay for three days, or until relieved by volunteers. The house, a two-story box affair, was literally riddled with bullets and how the boy escaped being shot is a mystery. The other settlers, seventeen in all, were similarly murdered. Henry Miller, who had befriended the Indians, was murdered under conditions of peculiar atrocity, for the reason, it was supposed, that he had failed to notify the Indians of the movements of the soldiers as he had promised.

During all these three days of murder and horror, Captain Jackson made no attempt to protect the settlers, but remained forted up at the cabin on Lost river. As soon as the news reached Linkville, now Klamath Falls, Captain O. C. Applegate organized a company of settlers and friendly Indians to protect what was left of the settlement. Captain Ivan D. Applegate also exerted himself in saving the settlers, and did brave work, but there were women and children to protect and days elapsed before an effective force could be gathered to meet the Indians. Meantime news had reached Jackson county and Captain Kelley hastily organized a force of a hundred men and by riding night and day reached the scene of the massacre. It was his company that relieved the besieged Brothertons, defended by the brave boy.

In the meantime the Indians had retreated to the lava beds and bade defiance to the soldiers. General Wheaton, commanding the district of the Lakes, ordered the concentration of troops from Camps Warner and Bidwell, while General Canby sent the forces under Colonel John Green and Major Mason from Ft. Vancouver to join the command under General Wheaton. As soon as the settlers could fort up for mutual protection, the entire forces of regulars and volunteers were concentrated at Van Bremer's ranch west of the lava beds under General Wheaton and at Land's ranch on the east side of Tule Lake and directly north of the stronghold. Such was the disposition of the forces when I arrived at headquarters at Van Bremer's ranch. By orders of Governor Grover of Oregon the volunteers under Captains O. C. Applegate and Kelley were placed under the command of General Wheaton. The two companies numbered about 225 men, and were commanded by General John E. Ross, a veteran Indian fighter, but too old to withstand the hardships of a winter campaign against Indians. The men were all poorly provided with clothing and bedding, most all having taken only what they could strap behind their saddles, but in spite of this and a temperature often below zero, no murmur was heard, and all anxiously, eagerly looked forward to a meeting with the brutal savage murderers of their fellow citizens. Such were the conditions when I arrived at headquarters.

Previous Page
Up One Level
Next Page