Journal of occurrences at Fort Nisqually...
for April and May, 1856, (Excerpts).

April, 1856. Friday 25th. "Eneas and Bob carting firewood."

Saturday, 26th. ""Eneas and Bob firewood."

May, 1856. Thursday, lst. "...Bob very sick."

Friday, 2nd. "Bob cutting firewood with Eneas (1/2 day)..."

Wednesday, 7th. "Bob cutting firewood..."

Sunday, 11th. "Cush, Bob and two women killed a polled ox, 533 lbs."

Monday, 12th. "Bob firewood."

Wednesday, 14th. "Bob firewood."

Thursday, 15th. "Bob firewood."

Wednesday, 21st. "Bob cutting firewood and about 3 o'clock was shot by a volunteer in a red shirt and will die, a wanton act!"

Thursday, 22nd "Bob died in the night and Chaulifoux made a coffin and he was buried today, Indians and Latour assisting."

Friday, 23rd, "Fine weather. Dr. Tolmie, Atkenson, Kennedy, Charles and Gwakany, Jack, Bill and Molka and J. Allard went to Montgomery's as witnesses to attest what each know in the case of Bob's murder. The culprit was soon pointed out by the Indians and Mr. Dean, who accompanied us from Tlithlow, and by order of Colonel Shaw put under arrest.

"Immediately his comrade volunteers showed symptoms of disapproval and took to loading their firearms and show other unmistakable marks of opposition such as "...let us shoot the whole of the witnesses," and other threatening language.

"In the course of three quarters of an hour the culprit was discharged and three cheers given for Lake and as many groans for those who wanted to bring him to justice. The witnesses all glad to find themselves safe at Fort Nisqually again..."


Edward Huggins, "Friendly Indian Shot Down," Portland Oregonian, October 21, 1901.

Quite a number of Indians refused to join the hostile band, and were permitted by the Governor and officers in charge of the Indian Department to reside at Fort Nisqually or either of the towns (during the Indian War of 1855-56). One of these friendly Indians named Bob, or Say-sil-loh, was permitted to reside at Fort Nisqually by the authorities, and he was employed by Doctor Tolmie as a wood chopper.

At this time I was in charge of the company's business at Muck, and was not at the fort when the following occurred, but I obtained the particulars from Dr. Tolmie and have a very vivid recollection of the death by violence of Bob.

Tuesday, May 21, 1856, at about two p.m. as the work people of the fort were going to resume labor after dinner, two young volunteers passed the Fort and inquired of Indian Bob the way to Camp Montgomery.

About 2:30 another volunteer, on foot, dressed in a red shirt, corduroy trousers, and an old felt hat, and armed with a rifle came from the direction of Packwood's Ferry, across the Squally River, and asked the way to Camp Montgomery, and also whether the two lads above mentioned had already passed.

After obtaining the desired information and loitering about the fort a short time, he set out on the wagon road to Montgomery. A few minutes after, the report of a gun was heard in the direction he had taken, and where Indian Bob was chopping firewood in a low piece of ground at the edge of Fort Swamp, which has since borne the name of Bob's Hollow.

About three quarters of an hour after the red shirted volunteer had left the fort Bob was found on the slope of a bank, in sight of the establishment, two hundred yards or so from the spot where he had been working, wounded in the back.

In answer to questions he said that he had not been shot by either of the young men he had directed to Montgomery but that while chopping and unaware that anyone approached, he had been shot in the back, and that, upon looking around, he saw a man in a red shirt running across the road from beyond the fence and within a few yards of him.

Bob, when shot, was chopping a tree into lengths inside an enclosed field, and in sight of about a cord and a half of wood lying in three heaps, one next to the fence and two near the opposite side of the road, but all visible to anyone traveling that way. From the fence where the road adjoined the field the tree was about three or four yards and in the fence there were spaces between the rails wide enough to admit of taking a good aim with a firearm.

Bob, it was supposed, was wounded about three p.m. Between five and six o'clock two white men who were tending sheep about seven miles southeast of the fort saw a man in a red shirt and hat running in the direction of Muck but he was too far off for them to distinguish his features.

After dark a volunteer dressed as described reached Tlithlow station, six miles from Muck. On entering the house he said he was hungry and very tired, that he had lost his way coming from Olympia, and had walked a good forty miles. The distance by the road is about twenty-two or three miles. He retired immediately after eating.

On seeing his rifle handled, he said that it had been recently loaded. Thursday morning he reached Camp Montgomery, where he was placed under arrest for killing an Indian prisoner in Olympia, presumable the Nisqually Chief Quiemulth, who gave himself up, and was murdered in the governor's outer office.

Bob was well known to many citizens of the country, and was a quiet and inoffensive man, a general favorite, and had been for years employed by the company as a man of all work. On the outbreak of Indian hostilities Bob moved to the temporary reservation opposite Steilacoom (McNeil's Island). He left in the course of the winter and returned to Fort Nisqually through dread of an Indian to whom he had formerly been a slave, and who had recently leveled a gun at him on failing to extort property.

The Indian agents were aware that Bob had come to reside at the fort, and so also were Colonels Shaw and Hurb of the Volunteers. The murder of Bob caused a great deal of excitement, and the officers of both arms of the service, regulars and volunteers were highly indignant.

I received a letter from Dr. Tolmie on May 22nd, informing me that he had seen Colonel B. F. Shaw, commanding the Northern Battalion of volunteers, who had urgently requested him to return to Camp Montgomery, accompanied by witnesses, able to identify the supposed murderer. Other officers, regulars and volunteers, also joined with Colonel Shaw in this request and in reply to an inquiry on the doctor's part as to whether it would be safe to bring Indians to camp to testify against a volunteer he stated that it would, and was supported in his opinion by other officers, all agreeing that no one there would sympathize with the perpetrator of such a foul and unprovoked murder.

They brought such pressure to bear upon the doctor that he at last gave way and agreed to comply with Colonel Shaw's resowed and he requested me to meet him on the 23rd at Camp Montgomery at a certain hour.

I was much troubled at this news, and apprehended that the poor Indians would be likely to meet with ill treatment at the hands of the volunteers, many of whom thought no more of the life of an Indian than they did of that of a dog, and I have grave fears that even Dr. Tolmie himself would meet with insult, and perhaps worse.

However, I jumped on my horse and galloped to Camp Montgomery where I found Dr. Tolmie in the commanding officer's tent. I mentioned to him my fears, and he said it was too late to back out and he would go through with the business. The doctor was accompanied by two white men, one Sandwich Islander and four Indians as witnesses.

Two companies of volunteers were now paraded for inspection and in one of these the red shirted man was recognized at a glance. His perturbed and guilty look while standing in line betrayed him to Dr. Tolmie and the others, to whom he was unknown. Colonel Shaw then gave orders to have him deprived of his gun and arrested which I believe was done.

Dr. Tolmie and the witnesses now went to the Colonel's tents and noticed that the men were very much excited. A friend of mine now came up and told me that I had better jump on my horse, and get quickly out of the camp, as the men had declared that they would shoot the Indians and possibly in the excitement of the moment would shoot all the witnesses. I went immediately to where the Doctor was standing and found him quite cool and collected, for he was a courageous man.

Very soon after a large number of volunteers flew to their arms and tumultuously declared that the red shirted man should not be molested. They spoke of murdering the Indian witnesses, and of lynching one or two persons they supposed had given information regarding the suspected man's position in the line of volunteers paraded for inspection.

We were also informed that they spoke of shooting Doctor Tolmie, but as we remained with the Indians in front of Colonel Shaw's tent till this commotion had nearly subsided, we did not hear any threats uttered.

Dr. Tolmie was now called into the crowd to exonerate Dr. Matthew P. Burns of the volunteers from the charge of having given information regarding the suspected man's position. The doctor was lectured in a loud voice by one of the mutineers on the impropriety of bringing a charge against any volunteer at the suggestion or by the wish of their officers, from whom Colonel Shaw and Governor Stevens included, he in emphatic terms said they did not care.

The officers were now in a rather excited state, and were anxious to have the doctor and witnesses depart. They now formed a sort of a ring and the doctor and those accompanying him were placed in its center and thus we marched in safety out of the camp and placed some distance between us and the gallant volunteers.

The last act of the volunteers that we saw was the getting of "Red Shirt" into their midst and saluting him with repeated cheers.

There were many, I know, good, honest, fair-minded men in the ranks of the volunteers, and I know also that there were some who would not have hesitated a minute to kill the Indians and perhaps the whole party, could they have thought themselves safe in doing so.

I must say in all fairness, that the noisiest and most forward among the belligerent volunteers were two or three French-Canadians, who had formerly been in the service of the Company and had behaved in not at all a commendable manner, and consequently they had no liking for Dr. Tolmie and myself.

That was the last of the killing of Bob and nothing more was done in the matter. At that time any Indian caught away from the forts, no matter whether friendly or hostile, by volunteer soldiers would certainly be killed.


Ezra Meeker, "Insubordination at Camp Montgomery," Chapter XXII. The Tragedy of Leschi. Seattle: Historical Society of Seattle and King County, 1980. (Original edition published in 1905.).

On the 21st of May 1856, an Indian was shot near Fort Nisqually while peacefully cutting wood by the road side and died soon after. The incident became prominent from the fact that he was in the employ of the Puget's Sound Agricultural Company and under the protection of William F. Tolmie, the agent of both the Hudson's Bay Company and the Puget's Sound Agricultural Company at Fort Nisqually.

These two companies had assisted in financially in the prosecution of the war against the Indians to the extent of forty thousand dollars and felt they had a right to protection instead of being attacked.

Upon the solicitation of Lieutenant Colonel Silas Casey commanding at Fort Steilacoom, Doctor Tolmie reported in full the incidents attendant upon the murder and upon invitation of Colonel B. F. Shaw, commanding the volunteers at Camp Montgomery, visited that camp to point out the murderer with a view to his punishment.

What followed is best told in his letter to Colonel Casey, kindly furnished me by Edward Huggins, one of the participants. The letter follows:

"Fort Nisqually, Washington Territory, May 27, 1856.

"Colonel Casey, 9th Infantry, United States Army, Commanding Puget Sound District, Fort Steilacoom, Washington Territory.

"Sir--On the 23rd inst. I addressed you, detailing the circumstances of the murder at this place, on the 21st inst. of a friendly Indian by a passing volunteer, and have now to inform you what has subsequently happened in relation to that unfortunate affair.

"On the 22nd inst. I saw at Camp Montgomery Colonel B.F. Shaw, commanding the Northern Battalion of Volunteers when I mentioned to him the murder that had been committed the day before. The Colonel thereupon requested me to return the following day accompanied by witnesses able to identify the supposed murderer, and in replay to an inquiry on my part as to whether it would be safe to bring Indians to camp to testify against a volunteer he stated that it would, and was supported in his opinion by other officers, all agreeing that no one would sympathize with the perpetrators of such a foul and unprovoked murder as that to be investigated.

"I accordingly, on the 23th inst. when to Camp Montgomery, accompanied by three white men, one Sandwich Islander and four Indians amongst them, able to substantiate all the statements set forth in my letter to you of the 23rd inst. reporting the murder. On our arrival at camp two companies of volunteers were paraded for inspection and in one of them the man Lake was recognized at a glance as the volunteer who passed Fort Nisqually about 2:30 p.m. on the 21st inst. His perturbed and guilty look while standing in line betrayed him to myself and others to whom he was personally known.

"I heard Colonel Shaw then give orders to have Lake deprived of his gun and arrested, which I believe was done.

"Very soon after a large number of volunteers tumultuously declared that Lake should not be molested. They spoke of murdering the Indian witnesses, and of lynching one or two persons they supposed had given information regarding Lake's position in the line of volunteers paraded for inspection. They also, I am informed spoke of shooting me, but as I remained with the Indians in front of Colonel Shaw's tent until the commotion had nearly subsided, I did not myself hear any threats uttered.

"Being at length called into the crowd to exonerate Dr. M. P. Burns of the volunteer force from the charge of having given information regarding Lake's position, I was lectured in a loud voice by one of the volunteers on the impropriety of bringing a charge against any volunteer at the suggestion or by the wish of their officers, for whom, Colonel Shaw and Governor Stevens included, he in emphatic terms said they did not care.

"The last act of the volunteers that I witnessed was the getting of Lake into their midst and saluting him with repeated cheers.

"Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 
William F. Tolmie."

No doubt when Colonel Shaw advised Dr. Tolmie to bring witnesses to his camp to point out the murderer of Indian Bob, he was sincere in his intention to have the man punished. Neither had we any reason to doubt that he intended to enforce his order to arrest the murderer, but we know he did not; that Lake went scott free and that neither Maxon nor any of his men were punished or reprimanded for their acts of insubordination.

We know, on the other hand, that Maxon was promoted and given important duties to perform and was treated as one of the trusted Lieutenants of the Governor; that he was given the awful charge to turn the guns of his men against citizens and to " all hazards..." arrest the Judge (Chenoweth) which meant the shooting of citizens in the event they did not submit to his will; this too, in the face of the then known fact of the brutal massacre by Maxon and his men of from seventeen to thirty Indians on the Michel (River), fifteen out of the seventeen being positively proven to be women and children. The Indians had fled far into the mountains, were unarmed and engaged in fishing when pounced upon by Maxon.

(A military commission was ordered established by Governor Isaac I. Stevens at Camp Montgomery to conduct business offered it by the military establishment. The commission consisted of: Jared S. Hurd, President, H. J. G. Maxon, Major; C. W. Swindal, Captain, Washington Territorial Volunteers, W. W. DeLacey, Captain, Washington Territorial Volunteers, and Andrew Shepherd, Lieutenant, Washington Territorial Volunteers.) 

On 26 May 1856, the commission convened and tried two Volunteers for the murder of an Indian by the name of "Mowitch." After hearing the testimony, the Court, cleared Joseph Brannon and James A. Lake, both of Olympia. Brannon was a member of Co. C, 2nd Regt. and served in the first phase of the war in Co. B, 1st Regt. as 4th Sergeant. Lake was a Corporal in the Pioneer Company.

This Commission was one of three known Commissions appointed by Governor Stevens during the Indian Wars. (Virgil Field, History of the Washington National Guard.). 

Scene two. Personal recollections of Captain U.E. Hicks, scenes, incidents, dangers, and hardships endured during the Yakima and Clickitat Indian-War, 1855 and 1856.

When Governor Stevens issued his proclamation commanding all peaceable disposed and non-combatant Indians to be removed to the island reservation, Dr. Tolmie, Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company's post at Fort Nisqually obtained permission from the Governor to keep a few Indians around his post, vouching for their conduct while the war lasted. The Indians kept by Tolmie were suspicioned of giving information and aid to the hostiles whenever chance offered.

In my company was a man by the name of Lake (John A. Lake, Second corporal), a brother to one of the families massacred on White River. Of course he was bitter against all red-skins, friend or foe. The sad fate of his dear relatives seemed to weigh upon his mind so much so that at times he would become almost frantic, and it was with difficulty that he could be restrained from acts of violence towards friendly Indians in our own camp. The poor fellow died shortly after the close of the war, from over-exposure and mental worry.

White the companies were camped at Montgomery's preparatory to crossing the mountains, Lake obtained a furlough to go to Steilacoom, eighteen miles distant, on private business. On his return the next evening he passed Fort Nisqually just at dusk and was seen by some squaws. A short distance beyond the fort he saw a big Indian buck in the woods close to the trail.

The temptation was too great for him to withstand, so he leveled his gun, and knocked the Indian over, the report of his rifle being heard at the fort. On reaching camp at night, he sent for me. I found him hid away in his tent, when he whispering told me what he had done.

I scolded him for the act, but still could not help sympathizing with him, as, indeed he had the sympathy of the entire company and camp. I cautioned him to keep quiet and promised that I would do what I could to shield him from further trouble.

The next morning Dr. Tolmie, accompanied by two or three squaws, appeared in camp and immediately entered complaint before Colonel Shaw that one of his friendly Indians had been killed the evening before, near the fort, by a volunteer and had brought the squaws along to identify the man seen passing the fort a few minutes before Hearing the report of the rifle, and if the man could be found, he (Tolmie) demanded his immediate arrest and punishment.

The Colonel ordered all the companies to be drawn up in line. It then became generally known what had happened and it required considerable effort on the part of the officers to keep the men in line while the roll was being called and they were being examined by Dr. Tolmie and his squaws.

My company was the last to be examined, and although it was by that time pretty generally suspected who they were after still it was hoped by the boys that by noise and confusion they would be so frighten the squaws that they would fail to identify. The line was passed without identification for Lake had changed his clothes. Dr. Burns, knowing Lake to be the suspected party and had been absent from-camp a day or two previous and being a warm friend of Dr. Tolmie pointed to where Lake stood in line when he was recognized by the squaws.

Scarcely had he been pointed out by the squaws before the men, and in spite of the efforts of their officers, all broke ranks and with wild yells rushed for their guns, threatening dire vengeance upon Dr. Tolmie and his squaws if Lake was touched.

It required the utmost exertion on the part of the officers to save them from assault. They ran for dear life to the Colonel's tent, imploring his protection. The officers surrounded the tent and kept back the infuriated mob until order was somewhat restored when the Doctor agreed that if the men would permit him and his squaws to escape, he would not molest Lake any further.

A way was opened for them, through which they ran to their horses, quickly mounting and galloped off, no doubt heartily glad to get away with their scalps to the now infinite amusement of the men. No more was heard of the affair.