Edward Huggins, "Letter to Eva Emery Dye," South Tacoma, R.F.D. February 1, 1904.
William P. Bonney, "Whites now honor Indian chief who died by noose," The Tacoma Times, October 31, 1929.
Letter of William F. Tolmie To the Citizens of Washington Territory, February 10,
1858 Portland Oregonian, 26 August, 1900.
Edward Huggins, Tacoma Sunday Ledger, May 22, 1892.
Cecelia S. Carpenter, "Leschi, the last chief of the Nisquallies,"
Myron Eells, "Leschi," Indians of Puget Sound. Seattle: University of Washington 1985, p. 351-52.
Mrs. George Blankenship, "The hanging of Leschi," Early History of Thurston County, Washington. Olympia:
n.p., 1914, p. 264-266.
"Letter to Eva Emery Dye,"
South Tacoma, R.F.D. February 1, 1904.
You asked me to tell you something about Leschi; I really could tell you but little about him. I often saw him about the
fort, but took no particular notice of him, more than I would of any other Indian. He was a quiet, well behaved man. Worked a little
for us as a horse guard, but for no length of time. I had no idea at that time, of his being a Chief, in fact he wasn't a Chief, but
a man of good standing amongst the Indians, and when the late Gov. Stevens made his brother Quiemuth Chief, he made him-Lush-chy-uch
I never saw him under the influence of liquor, and I think, both himself and brother were temperate men. The last time I saw
him was, just before he gave himself up. I recollect that one evening Dr. Tolmie and myself were sitting conversing just after
supper, when one of the Indian servants, in the kitchen, came in and told the doctor that somebody wished to speak with him,
The doctor beckoned me out with him, and inside of a clump of timber, about 4 miles west of the fort, we found Leshchi looking
very much used up, the result of the life he had been living, hiding in the woods, and perhaps, at times, having but little food.
He wanted advice from Dr. Tolmie, as to surrendering to Colonel Casey, who was then in command of the U. S. troops at
Fort Steilacoom, and who had declared that he would pardon ( I think its so ) Leshchi, if he would give himself up.
The doctor urged the poor chap to surrender, and he left us, declaring that he would do so. As I have before said, I can tell
you but little about him, considering him to be of no more importance than many other of the decent sort of Indian, and the
nature of the man was such as not to court friendship, being quiet and reserved, as was his brother Quiemuth to the best of my
Just before the Indian trouble commenced Quiemuth brought a small, white horse to the fort to trade for goods ( the company
never gave the Indians money, but always goods ) and Dr. Tolmie, in charge of the company's business in the plains, and I used the
animal as my favorite riding horse. My work caused me to be much in the saddle, and I usually kept five for my own
use, this little animal ( Sirely ) obtained from Quiemuth being the best of the lot.
Last Sundays Post Intelligencer ( Seattle ) contains Meeker's address before the Historical Society, with the addition of his own
likeness, and that of the interminable Leshchi and Kitty Kautz, the latter an Indian woman, kept by Lieut.
A. V. Kautz, when he was stationed at Fort Steilacoom in 1853, and several subsequent years.
He ( Meeker ) calls this Indian woman Leshchi's sister, and I suppose that's the reason he has introduced her into the story.
I was much grieved to see this woman so conspicuously introduced, because the late General Kautz's widow is now living in
Seattle, at least I think so, with two marriageable daughters and two nephews, one a doctor, and the other in the service of the U.S
Customs department. She has a son also, who is in command, actively, of a U.S. Gunboat. She is an educated woman of a
prominent German family, rather proud, but a lady, and I am sure this opening of an old sore by Meeker, will be humiliating to her,
and her relations, and numerous family in Seattle and elsewhere.
Kautz had two children by the woman Kitty Kautz, and when he went east in 1863 ( about ) to take part in the War of the
Rebellion, which made him eminent, he made arrangements with me to act as his agent, and I paid this woman a monthly allowance, to be
spent upon the children until I procured homes for them, in the families of decent Americans. The boys were well (commonly)
educated, and one of them is a teacher in an Indian school, Carlisle, I think. The Indian woman, Kitty, was quite good looking,
and as far as I know, behaved decently, although Meeker would lead people to think otherwise. She married a well to do farmer, an
American, and lived with him, comfortably, apparently until she died, some years ago.
After General Kautz's death, in 1893, some shyster lawyer persuaded the two boys to claim their share of the Generals estate,
but after an interview with Mrs. Kautz, they, the boys abandoned the idea of troubling her, and now Meeker, with his blessed
Leshchi, has resurrected the thing, which we all thought dead, for sure, just because somebody told him the woman was
the sister of his chieftain hero.
Almost all the early officers had Indian wives, and kept them openly in barracks, until the wives ( American ) of officers
arrived. Kautz's first legitimate wife was a daughter of Governor Todd, of Ohio, but she didn't live many years with him before death
claimed her. The surviving Mrs. K was aware of the little episode in the life of General Kautz perhaps you have heard little or
nothing about him, but upon the Sound he was thought a good deal of. He was a man of fine ability, and possessed literary ability, which, had
he lived, would have been shown in a work he intended to write from data he had all his life been collecting, but like a good many more
of my acquaintances and friends, he put it off too long.
I feel that I am due you an explanation, or give my reason for writing you upon such a subject as I have just tried to make clear.
General Kautz was a very old friend of mine, and it occurred to me that Perhaps you might be acquainted with him, and Meeker having
brought his name prominently before the public, I thought there'd be no harm in giving you a true history of the affair, but
if the dead soldier ( he was wounded in one of the Indian battles which occurred here in 1856 ) was a stranger to you, I trust you'll
pardon my having dared to write you upon such a subject.
I am told that Mrs. Kautz's daughter, who possesses literary ability of no mean order, intends writing a work from the data left
by her father, but I doubt it. I will mail you a copy of the Post Intellegencer, part of it, containing Meeker's address. The woman’s
likeness is good, but Leshchi's, isn't a bit like him, and so we told him, but in his address, he says differently.
"Letter to Eva Emery Dye,"
South Tacoma R.F.D., February 1, 1904.
WHITES NOW HONOR INDIAN CHIEF WHO DIED BY NOOSE
William P. Bonney,
"Whites now honor Indian chief who died by noose,"
The Tacoma Times, October 31, 1929.
(This is the eighth of a series of stories related by W. P. Bonney, secretary of the Washington State Historical society
and curator of the Ferry museum, to Stuart Whitehouse, Tacoma Times reporter. Other articles of the series will follow.)
Muffle the tom-tom! Let the squaws chant the Dirge of the Departed Brave! Sing the tale of Leschi, thundering defender of his
The white man came and took his lands. The white man put a white man's rope about his neck and suspended him in the air to die
by the white man's torture.
Then the white man carved the victim's image out of stone and set it up in his honor. Then the white man took land, dedicated it
to the nature that the old chief loved, and called it Leschi park. Mysterious are the ways of the White Brother. Who can understand. . .
The Indian wars were over in 1856. The war-whoop was stilled; the arrow was in its quiver, the bow was sheathed. In the fall the
Nisqualies, dignified and brave in defeat, returned to their reservation.
"Get Leschi!" the whites growled, much as they screamed 60 years later for a crowned head in Europe. "Get Chief Leschi!"
Leschi heard, and his heart sorrowed. The war was over. His people had been beaten. Their power was gone forever. Why should
the white man hate him?
He came in to Steilacoom and saw Col. Casey, who was in command.
"Tell the white man Leschi will cut off his hatchet hand to prove that he will never lift it again in anger," he said.
Casey knew how the whites were inflamed against Leschi, whom they blamed for the attack on Seattle and the White River valley
"Leschi, take a tip from me and hide out until things cool down, he advised.
Leschi returned and hid in the wilderness, among his people. But his nephew, Sluggia betrayed him into the hands of the whites.
Leschi was held in Steilacoom. This was the year before the jail there was built. In November, 1856, he was tried for the
killing of a Col. Moses. The jury disagreed. The next March, he was taken to Olympia and tried there and convicted, and sentenced
to be hanged. His speech to stern faced Judge Lander was a masterpiece.
"I supposed that the killing of armed men in war time was not murder; if it was, the soldiers who killed Indians are guilty of
murder too," he said, with clear logic. "I had been warned that I could not gain anything by going to war with the United States, but
would be beaten and humbled and would have to hide like a wild beast in the end. I went to war because I believed that the
Indian had been wronged by the white men . . . As God sees me, this is the truth."
One clear-headed man believed him, Frank Clark, a Steilacoom lawyer. On January 22, the execution date, Clark had Sheriff
George Williams and C. Daniel, his deputy, thrown in jail on a charge of selling liquor to the Indians.
It was a futile gesture.
The legislature coldly ordered Leschi resentenced.
On February 19, they took the chief out on the prairie, a mile east of Steilacoom. Spring was coming, and the great chief lifted
his head at her breath. How he had hated confinement!
Calmly he walked up the steps of the crude gallows.
There was a proud look in his eye--was it contempt?--as he gazed upon the crowd of 300 thrill-seekers who crowded around to
see the fallen foe's final twitchings. Then he turned away from them, and spoke to his God.
"I have made my peace. I do not wish to live longer. I bear no malice toward the white men who kill me--"
He paused. A hush spread over the prairie . . .
Then the eagle eye of the doomed chief flashed fire: "--but upon my nephew, Sluggia, let the fires of the Great Spirit
pour forth. Leschi has spoken."
Not a muscle in those bronzed, knotted arms moved when the black cap was dropped over Leschi's eyes, shutting out forever the
sight of the land he loved.
Again silence, broken by the cry of a lone bird.
The still of morning was shattered by the horrid clatter of the trap, and the spirit of Leschi walked with his fathers.
Buried near the spot where he was hanged, he was reburied with ceremony 35 years later on the Fort Lewis reservation, and when
that was taken by the government in the late war, the bones of Leschi were moved to the burial ground beside Cushman hospital,
where he now sleeps the eternal sleep.
Time has mellowed the hearts of men, and many believe a great wrong was done a good man. Perhaps he has met, in the Happy
Hunting Ground, the spirit of that other man who regretted that he had but one life to give for his country-that other patriot, hanged
but honored, Nathan Hale!
William P. Bonney,
"Whites now honor chief who died by noose,"
The Tacoma Times, October 31, 1929.
Letter of William F. Tolmie
To the Citizens of Washington Territory, February 10, 1858.
Portland Oregonian, 26 August, 1900.
Fort Nisqually, Washington Territory, February 10,1858.
To the Citizens of Washington Territory:
The Hudson's Bay Company's post at Nisqually was established in 1833 the Summer of which year I spent here, then obtaining my
first insight into the peculiarities of the Indian character. Since the Summer of 1843 I have resided at Nisqually permanently.
In the Summer of 1845, American citizens, Messrs. Jackson, Ford, Simmons, Crockett and Others began to settle on the
prairie between Cowlitz River and the shores of Puget Sound.
Mention was soon thereafter made to the Indians, that ere long they would be paid for their lands occupied by the whites; and as
the natives in turn came to inquire of me, the white man of their earliest acquaintance present, my oft-repeated explanations,
injunctions to peace and good conduct on their parts were the first instances of my interference.
Until 1849 nothing of importance occurred to interrupt the harmonious relations existing between the whites and the Indians.
American citizens, on arriving in the country, found the native peaceably disposed and friendly towards them, guilt, only in rare
and solitary instances, of petty delinquencies, which were easily checked and differing widely as some citizens of the territory
subsequently found from the wild, untamed savages of Queen Charlotte's and the west coast of Vancouver's Island.
In these days I do not think that there was a white man in the country who did not entertain kindly and compassionate feelings
toward the Indians inhabiting the districts, now known as Thurston and Pierce counties.
In May, 1849, a sudden and on our parts unprovoked affray took place here with the Snoqualmie Indians--then a comparatively savage
and predatory tribe and little acquainted with the whites when an American citizen was shot dead by the Indians.
In getting the perpetrators of the murder delivered, I rendered every material assistance to the Indian agent of that
period, J. Quinn Thornton, Esq., and to Captain B. H. Hill, of the United States Army, to whom at Steilacoom in the Fall of 1849 were
delivered up by the tribe the six Indians who were here in May who fired upon the whites; and the two most guilty of the murder
were soon after tried and executed at Fort Steilacoom.
To the succeeding Indian agents, E. A. Starling, Esq., and subsequently Colonel M. T. Simmons, I rendered assistance whenever
EFFORT TO AVERT WAR
In the Summer and Fall of 1855, citizens of Washington territory, I brought every thing in my power to bear to preserve
peaceful relations between the whites and the Indians. I had then, as Acting Governor Mason was at the time informed, visits from the
chiefs of almost every tribe dwelling on these waters, several of whom I had not previously seen for some years.
The one object of these visits was to inquire of me, whether the evil consequences so much dreaded, namely banishment to an
imaginary sunless country, were really to follow the sale of their lands. Invariably and in the strongest language applicable, did I
endeavor to disabuse the minds of the Indians of these foolish fears.
I also, with equal earnestness, assured them that they might rely on the promises of the American chiefs whose relations towards
them were in every respect benevolent. To such as mentioned the proposals of Yakima envoys to unite in war upon the Americans I
pointed out the wickedness as well as the hopelessness of such an undertaking, as likewise the utter ruin it would bring
upon the natives.
With Acting Governor Mason, I was during this period, in frequent communication relative to Indian affairs, and well knowing
that since the days of the Pilgrim Fathers, Indian wars have been usually inaugurated by treacherous murders on their parts,
especially were my efforts directed to prevent participation in the then impending war on the part of the Indians dwelling west of the
I do not remember ever having met Governor Stevens subsequent to his return from the Blackfoot country in the Winter of 1855 and
1856, without having had lengthy conversations with him on Indian affairs. In the summer of 1856, when he met the Nisqually,
Puyallup, and other Indians near Steilacoom, and changed their reservations, I was present by his special invitation and
acted as interpreter.
And now for the reasons why, from first to last, I have interested myself in Leshchi's behalf.
In 1843 the Puget Sound Company's flocks and herds, already numbering several thousand head, had overspread the prairies lying
between the Nisqually and Puyallup Rivers, and as in feeding off the pastures they interfered with the root-digging operations of
the natives, discontent and ill-feeling occasionally arose on this account.
Another and more frequent cause of actual disturbance was the poisoning of Indian hunting dogs by wolf-baits or being shot by the
shepherds when in the act of worrying sheep. In July, 1843, when I came to reside at Nisqually, an Indian was in irons in one of the
bastions, on suspicion of having fired at and wounded a Sandwich Island shepherd with whom a few days before he had
had a squabble about the killing of a dog.
Leshchi and Quiemal, I found, had aided the whites in capturing the Indian, and they were then particularly known, the
one as McLean's friends and the other as the friend of Taylor, these being the names of the two white men who lived on the
prairies, superintending the management of the sheep. From the early days the brothers were noted for their readiness to assist
the whites on all occasions, and with the first American settlers, they, I think, obtained a similar reputation.
In the Fall of 1855, as mentioned more fully in my letter to Governor McMillin, now published, I pointed out Leshchi to Governor
Mason as an Indian of superior shrewdness, who, if properly managed, might be made very useful in quieting the Indian panic and
preserving peace. With this in view, I suggested himself and brother as the fittest Indians to accompany Governor Mason
on his visits to the natives of White and Green Rivers, which they did, acting as interpreters and guides.
On his return, in order to have the power of closely observing his movements, I gave Leshchi employment as horse guard on the
plains, where he would have been daily under the notice of white men, and whence, it is my opinion, he would not have stirred for
the Winter had he been left unmolested.
By these steps, and by subsequently inquiring of Mr. Rabbeson whether he knew Leshchi, etc. as detailed in the evidence taken at
his trials, I contributed to give the unfortunate man a notoriety he would not otherwise have had and which has since operated much
to his prejudice.
On this account, and in remembrance of important services by him rendered in early days to myself and others, I have done my
best to save Leshchi from his impending fate; and the "inward monitor" does not reproach me for any step taken in the matter.
Citizens of Washington Territory, having here, as father of a family and otherwise like interests with yourselves, I have
throughout striven, as far as my peculiar position among you would admit of to avert from your borders the horrors of Indian war than
which scarcely any calamity more fraught with material and moral evil, can befall a young country.
Whatever may be the opinion of some, I have myself the satisfaction of reflecting that my endeavors towards that end,
whether appreciated or the contrary, have not been altogether without beneficial result to the community.
William Fraser Tolmie.
Edward Huggins, Tacoma Sunday Ledger, May 22, 1892.
Lashehyach was tried in the district court of Pierce County for murder, found guilty and sentenced to be hanged on January 21,
1858, but on the day fixed for the execution of the sentence Captain James Bachelder, residing at Fort Steilacoom or its
vicinity, who was United States Commissioner, caused Sheriff Williams and his deputy to be arrested for selling liquor to
Indians, and Fred Kautz, brother of Lieutenant, now General A. V. Kautz, was appointed by Bachelder to act as marshal, and he made
the arrest in due form; consequently there being no one in the county authorized by law to kill Lashchyach, the execution did not
take place on the appointed day.
Almost immediately after this I think a special session of the supreme court was convened at Olympia, which court resentenced
Lashchyach to be hanged on a certain day in Pierce County, and appointed William Mitchell, a well known citizen of Olympia of good
repute, to execute the sentence.
A detachment of armed citizens, some thirty or forty in number, went sent with Mitchell to assist him, if necessary, to
perform his duty, and on the 19th day of February 1858, Lashchyach was hanged by the neck until he was dead, and a party of Nisqually
Indians, friends of the deceased borrowed a team and ox wagon from the officer in charge of Fort Nisqually and conveyed the
dead body to the Nisqually reservation where it was buried on the side of a lofty eminence on the beautiful grass covered Squally plain and
within the sound of the murmuring of the swift running waters of the Squally river.
I did not witness the execution, as I did not care to see the death struggles of a man I had intimately known for nearly ten
years, and that time I never knew of his doing anything of a character to incur the displeasure of his friends and acquaintances
amongst the whites, until he committed the fatal mistake of plunging himself and associates in a bloody war with the United
It was generally believed that Williams, an ex-sergeant of the United States Army, was privy to his own arrest, as the officers of
the garrison, with whom he was on friendly terms, were much exercised over the action of the civil authorities, the condemned
man having been induced to surrender to Colonel Silas Casey, then in command at Fort Steilacoom under the promise of
Edward Huggins, Tacoma Sunday Ledger, May 22, 1892.
Cecelia S. Carpenter, "Leschi, the last chief of the Nisquallies,"
Leschi was born to be a leader. His people believe that the star that rose over the Nisqually Plains on the day of his birth in
1808 predestined him to become someday a war chief on behalf of his people. But ironically the title of chief would be bestowed upon
him by a territorial governor who would later demand his life on the gallows.
Leschi's parents were a Nisqually father and a Yakima mother. It was then the custom of the Nisqually people to arrange marriages
outside of tribal lineage so as to minimize the shortness of stature and the broadness of shoulders that is typical of the canoe
Indians of Puget Sound. His mixed heritage provided Leschi with a tall agile body, strong heavy shoulders and a face more
slender than others in his village.
Most distinguishing and most remembered by those who were to describe him later were his alert, penetrating eyes that seemed to
size up a situation immediately. As he grew to adulthood he became known as a man of great intelligence possessing superb oratorical
abilities. he developed the wisdom of a judge and was often called upon to settle disagreements among his tribesmen.
Because of his wealth of horses, Leschi's father was held in high esteem. His sons, Quiemuth and Leschi, benefited from this
distinction within the tribe; however because it was the custom, they would not carry their father's name but would choose their
own. Leschi had one sister and a brother-in-law whose name was Stahl.
The Nisqually people were first known as the Squally-absch, meaning " people of the grass country," for they inhabited the vast
prairies dotted with blue camas blossoms which lay to the east of the head of Puget Sound. The French voyageurs called them
Nesquallies and conferred the same name upon their river which flowed through the heartland of their prairie and reached from
Puget Sound to the forested slopes of the Cascades. Americans later changed the spelling to Nisqually.
Although the Nisquallies roamed a vast land area running north to the Puyallups and south to the Cowlitz and shared berry picking
and hunting grounds with both, they tended to locate all of their villages along the Nisqually River, its tributaries and along the
sound. The villages sharing the Nisqually watershed held a common bond with the river which provided their main food
source. In the summer the bands moved to the lower river and caught great quantities of salmon which were dried and stored for winter
consumption. They returned to the smaller, higher streams during the cold season. The foothills of the beloved mountain, Tacobud,
(Mount Rainier) provided excellent winter hunting.
One of their villages was located on the Mashel River at the point where it empties into the Nisqually. Leschi was born and
raised in this village. The Mashel site lay adjacent to an upland prairie which provided winter grazing for the family's horse herd.
Language maps suggest that this was a bilingual village and indeed, Leschi spoke both the Sahaptin language of his Yakima
mother and the Salish of his father who was originally from the salt water Salish village at Minter Creek on the Kitsap Peninsula. It is
recorded that Leschi never learned to speak English but that he spoke a few words of Chinook jargon, a trading language.
During the summer, thirty to forty families would gather along the Muck Creek where it joins the Nisqually near the present town
of Yelm. Leschi came here each summer with his family for food gathering and friendship. The rich bunch grass of the area
provided summer pasture for his horses.
At the delta of the Nisqually River lay the council grounds. Here the bands gathered periodically as the drums called them for
feasting, dancing, and scholastitudes, ceremonies performed by young men being taken into adult status in the tribe. Nisqually life was
highly organized, and the unwritten laws carefully observed. Overall tribal life was peaceful. The only diplomatic problems
were with the Snoqualmies and the tribes of British Columbia who often came south seeking slaves.
Up until 1849, Laghlet was the acknowledged chief of the Nisquallies; his oldest son Wyamock would have been his successor
had it not been that he was of a "wild nature" and therefore not permitted to rule. So the tribe went without a central leader
until Quiemuth and Leschi were appointed chiefs for the purpose of signing treaties with the whites, at which time the tribe willingly
accepted their leadership.
The British Arrive
The British and the Americans both sought control of the Pacific Northwest. The British were after beaver pelts, but the
Americans wanted additional land and an outlet to the Pacific Ocean as well as furs. In 1818 an agreement was signed, with both the
United States and Great Britain both reserving claims and rights in the Oregon country. The British fur traders rapidly moved into
and occupied the area north of the Columbia River.
The Hudson's Bay Company built Fort Vancouver in 1824 and Fort Nisqually in 1833, the latter becoming a trading center for the
entire Puget Sound area. The fort was built on high land north of the Nisqually Delta.
In 1838 Hudson's Bay extended their Nisqually holdings to include a thirty by sixty mile "Puget Sound Agricultural Farm,"
much of which impinged upon tribal root-digging fields north of the river. Wheat fields were planted and hundreds of sheep and cattle
were pastured on the prairies of the Nisqually Plains. If the British had not been skillful diplomats, there might have been
trouble with Leschi's people.
Instead, a good relationship developed. While French Canadians and Kanakas (Hawaiians) were brought in to work on the
farm, many Nisquallies were also hired to make up the seventy-five man workforce. The British acted civilly toward the Nisquallies,
forbade liquor to be sold to them, and recognized marriage between British subjects and Indian women. In 1843, Dr. William
F. Tolmie became chief trader at Fort Nisqually. He learned to speak the Nisqually language and he and his clerk, Edward Huggins, became
close friends with Leschi. On several occasions Leschi served as a guide for Hudson's Bay.
The Americans Come
Then in 1846 the international boundary was set at the 49th parallel and the Americans in growing numbers came into the area
north of the Columbia. The settlers soon claimed Nisqually lands under the Donation Land Act of 1850. James McAllister settled his
family on fertile lands on the Nisqually Delta at Leschi's invitation. James Longmire took up a claim east of the Yelm
Prairies. The establishment of a U.S. Army fort at Steilacoom completed the encirclement of the Nisquallies.
On March 2, 1853, Congress carved Washington Territory out of old Oregon, and Isaac I. Stevens was appointed first territorial
governor and superintendent of Indian affairs. A veteran of the Mexican War, the new governor surveyed a possible railroad route on
his way to Olympia. After attending to legislative duties, he set out to make treaties with the Indian tribes whose
ownership of the land had to be relinquished so that American settlers could have
legal titles to their claims.
Governor Isaac I. Stevens set up a treaty commission selected an acceptable treaty form, divided western Washington into five
treaty districts, and arranged for headmen or chiefs to be appointed for each tribe. He offered schools, hospitals,
blacksmith shops, and allowed each major Indian group to reserve its hunting, gathering and fishing rights, as well as a piece of
land to live on. Reservations would be located at the discretion of the Treaty Commission with provisions in the treaties which
would allow the government to later consolidate the reservations in a more remote area.
The first treaty concluded was the Medicine Creek Treaty, so named because the signing took place on She-nah-nam or Medicine
Creek on the Nisqually Delta. The treaty was explained to the assembled Nisquallies, Puyallups and assorted bands who spoke
Chinook jargon, and on December 26, 1854, the governor asked those he had appointed chiefs to sign. Leschi refused
although an X appeared before his name.
He felt that the proposed Nisqually and Puyallup reservations were inadequate. He knew that the Nisqually allotment, south of
the delta on high forested land, would condemn the tribe to a slow death, for there would be no river for fishing, no pastureland for
horses. Moreover, to sign the treaty might mean eventually being moved to the dreaded lands to the north.
Governor Stevens made more treaties to the north and east. Meanwhile, Leschi, traveling across the Cascades to the Yakimas
and the Klickitats and then south into Oregon, noticed the hostility of these inland peoples to the settlers rushing onto
In October, 1855, he went to Olympia and met with Acting-Governor Charles Mason (Stevens was away) and told him that
the Nisquallies wanted peace with the white man, but they also wanted to stay on their river bottom where they could fish and
farm. Receiving no clear direction from Mason, Leschi returned home to his fall plowing.
The Indian War
Early in 1855, due to a fear of an Indian uprising, Governor Stevens secured from the legislature approval for a volunteer
militia. Volunteers had been used in the Indian uprising in Oregon although General John E. Wool, Commander of the U.S. Army's Pacific
Division (or regular troops as they were known), had sharply criticized their use, believing that the Indian tribes had
turned hostile because of their premature presence.
In September of 1855 Indian Agent Michael Simmons encouraged friendly Indians to move onto Fox and Squaxon Islands where they
would be safe should an outbreak occur. Then, on October 24, 1855, Acting-Governor Mason provoked hostilites by ordering Eaton's
Rangers, a detachment of volunteers, to apprehend Leschi and his brother, Quiemuth, for preventative
Upon reaching Nisqually they found that the brothers had fled, leaving their plow in the wheat field. The volunteers pursued the
Nisqually chiefs. Indian drums sounded throughout the foothills and not a canoe was seen in the river.
Leschi and Quiemuth fled northeast towards the White River, possibly heading for the Naches Pass and east of the mountains. A
roving band of warriors ambushed the pursuing Eaton's Rangers at Connell's Prairie in Pierce County, killing two men. The remainder
of the militia turned back to Olympia.
At this time about one hundred and fifty warriors of the Duwamish, Puyallup and Klickitat tribes were camped with their
wives and children in the White River area.
Approximately thirty five Nisqually fighters and their families joined them. Drawing the force under his leadership,
Leschi proposed that this war was with the troops, not the settlers. Unknown to him, however, renegade Indians looted and
burned the homes of three White River families, killing nine.
On the thirty first of October, 1855, a seven man vanguard of Captain Maurice Maloney's troops, returning home from the Yakima
area via the Naches Trail passed through the Indians' camp. All seemed friendly at the time, but the seven were ambushed a mile
beyond the camp. When Maloney's main force reached the same camp area a few days later, the surprised Indians fled
across the White and Green Rivers.
Following a three day battle during which both sides suffered casualties, Maloney disengaged and continued to Fort Steilacoom.
News of this outbreak sent the settlers of Western Washington fleeing into the towns. Governor Stevens, returning from his
treaty trek east of the mountains, provided the settlers more than sixty volunteer-built blockhouses. Stevens met with the
legislature and then pledged eradication of the hostile Indians.
Leschi now made two visits to the lowlands pleading for peace talks. On January 5, 1856 he went to Fox Island to see John Swan,
Indian Agent, and on February 4th he appeared at John McLeod's home near Muck Creek. On the latter visit he asked that John Swan come
to the Indian camp located on the Green River. Swan came, but because he could not offer amnesty,
nothing was accomplished. Governor Stevens maintained that all hostiles must be put in jail
and stand trial. The Indian warriors could not agree to this, and more violence followed.
In April the Mashel massacre occurred. Captain H. J. G. Maxon and his volunteer troops annihilated an entire group of from
seventeen to thirty-five Nisqually Indians fishing at the Mashel River site, Leschi's former home. Orders of Governor Stevens had
read, "All Indians found in your field of operations, except a mounted company of Indians allied to the government, are to be
considered as enemies."
Regular Army General Wool was holding Stevens and his volunteers accountable for the Indian war, and so Stevens used
Leschi as his scapegoat. It is significant that Stevens' harsh treatment of Leschi, was not matched by his conduct when Indians
were the victims of violence.
A few months before Leschi's brother, Quiemuth, had turned himself in only to be killed in his sleep in the governor's office.
His murderer was never apprehended. Defenders of the Nisqually position in the intervening 120 years have criticized this apparent
double standard of justice.
Even though Stevens would not halt the execution, it still did not take place as planned. Before it was scheduled to occur a
Federal Marshal arrested the Pierce County officials in charge of the hanging for having sold liquor to the Indians. So the
execution date passed. The Territorial Legislature, in a questionable interference in judicial matters, ordered the Supreme
Court to set another date, February 18, 1858. When U.S. Army authorities refused to allow the hanging of Leschi at Fort
Steilacoom, a scaffold was erected about a mile east of the fort.
Leschi waited in silence. He had taken a stand for his people in the reservation matter, and in time the Nisquallies acquired
better land. But, false accusations and political maneuvering would cost him his life. He accepted fate and made peace with his
God. Leschi heard the beating of Indian drums in the distance and his heart must have become one with his people, the
Squally-absch. He approached the scaffold, bowed his head and prayed.
Turning to Thurston County Sheriff Charles Granger, Leschi thanked him for the kindness he had shown him while a prisoner in
his care, then said he was ready. Leschi's death was as dignified as his life. Granger believed he had hanged an innocent man that
The Legacy of Leschi
Daniel Mounts, Indian Agent at the Nisqually Reservation, took Leschi's body and buried it in a spot known to few. On July 4,
1895, his remains were moved to a site at the mouth of Muck Creek near his old village. In 1917 when Pierce County donated a large
tract of land to the United States for an army post, the northeastern portion of the Nisqually Reservation was
condemned and included in that parcel. Muck Creek was in that section and so, for the third time, the body of the Chief was moved, this time to
the Cushman Indian Cemetery near where his daughter lived. On the memorial stone over his grave are these words:
This is a memorial to Chief Leschi, 1818-1858. An Arbitrator of His People.
On the back of the stone are the words: Judicially murdered, February 19, 1858, owing to misunderstanding of Treaty of 1854-55.
Serving his people by his death. Sacrificed to a principle. A martyr to liberty, honor and the rights of people of his native
land. Erected by those he died to serve.
Leschi's legacy has lived on through his daughter who married Chief Tom Stolyer, the founder of the Cushman Indian School near
Puyallup where the Cushman Hospital was later built. For three generations only daughters descended from Leschi. Today only the
descendants of Quiemuth, the Chief s brother, carry the Chief's name.
Leschi left a still greater legacy to his tribesmen who today live on or near the remaining portion of the reservation on the
Nisqually River near Yelm. The courage and determination Leschi displayed on behalf of what he felt rightfully belonged to his
people have been carried down through six generations of Nisquallies who today insist on receiving their fishing rights
reserved through the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854.
They still hope that some day the portion of their land on the Nisqually Plains where the Muck Creek flows and the blue camas
flowers bloom will be regained, and Leschi, Last Chief of the Nisquallies, will be brought back home to a final resting place
among his people.
Cecelia Svinth Carpenter
Gault Junior High School
Nisqually Tribal Historian
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL ECONOMY
Myron Eells, "Leschi,"
Indians of Puget Sound.
Seattle: University of Washington 1985, p. 351-52.
Leschi was the great leader. In December 1854, he and Quiemuth first come into notice in connection with the treaty,
which was made by Governor I. I. Stevens at Medicine creek, with the Nisqually, Puyallup, Squakson, Steilacoom, and other associated
bands. Quiemuth was the first to sign it, and Leschi the third.
Nevertheless, in the fall of I855, dissatisfied with it, they organized a war, which was the most severe of any on the Sound, and
in fact the only one. It was carried on mainly at Seattle and in the White river, Puyallup, and Nisqually valleys.
Leschi, says Governor Evans, and his brother Quiemuth "were natural leaders, born orators, consummate strategists, fertile in
resource, and of brilliant audacity, they gave strengths to the malcontents, and transformed a mere outbreak into a protracted
After the Indians on the Sound were conquered, Leschi and the other chiefs fled across the Cascades, where they and the other
Indians surrendered to Major Gamett of the Ninth Infantry. Governor Stevens had announced his readiness to receive and provide for such
hostiles as would come in, and disavow further hostilities, but excepted from amnesty Leschi, Quiemuth,
Nelson, Kitsap, and Stehi, as instigators in the hostilities and participators in the
massacres on the Sound.
They, however, surrendered themselves and were brought to the Sound for trial. Leschi was found guilty and hung. The other
chiefs mentioned were tried and acquitted.
Myron Eells, "Leschi,"
Indians of Puget Sound,
Seattle: University of Washington, 1985 p. 351-52.
HANGING OF LESCHI.
Mrs. George Blankenship,
"The hanging of Leschi,"
Early History of Thurston County, Washington.
Olympia: n.p., 1914, p. 264-266.
Almost within the shadow of the asylum is the spot where Chief Leschi expiated his crime of the murder of Joseph Miles and
A. Benton at the beginning of the Indian war. This Indian had been surrendered by one of his relatives for a reward of fifty blankets.
Leschi was brought to trial before a jury, among whom were Ezra Meeker and William Kincaid.
After listening to the evidence these men stood for acquittal with the result that the jury, being unable to agree, was finally
discharged. At a second trial before Chief Justice Lander the Indian was convicted and sentenced to be hung. Appeal was then
taken to the Supreme Court which stayed the execution for a while. The case was this time argued before Justices 0. B. McFadden
and P. A. Chenoweth. The decision against Leschi by the Court was unanimous. The opinion was written by Judge McFadden and sealed
Leschi's doom. The date of execution was set for January 22, 1858.
Leschi was then sent to Fort Steilacoom to await the fulfillment of his sentence. Dr. Tolmie and other officials of the
Hudson Bay Company took active steps to secure a pardon from Governor McMullen, but this was refused.
When the day of execution finally arrived Leschi's friends secured a further delay by working a clever trick. The sheriff of
Pierce County and his deputy were placed under arrest by Lieutenant McKibben, who had been appointed a deputy United States Marshal,
the trumped up charge against the Sheriff and deputy being the selling of liquor to Indians. They were released from
custody as soon as the hour set for the execution was passed.
This action on the part of the military officers and Hudson Bay people led to intense indignation among the citizens. Mass
meetings were held in Steilacoom and Olympia, at which Governor McMullen and Secretary Mason voiced the indignation of the people
at the manner in which the law had been trampled on, and a series of resolutions were adopted denouncing, by name the
officers of Forts Nesqually and Steilacoom and Leschi's attorney.
As the Territorial Legislature was in session an act was railroaded through both houses demanding a special session of the
Supreme Court to pronounce upon the case of Leschi as it then stood.
At this special session the prisoner was resentenced for a third time and William Mitchell, then acting Sheriff of Thurston
County was appointed to carry the sentence into execution. The date fixed was February 19. Captain Isaac Hays, Sheriff of
Thurston County, was at this time absent from the state, so the unpleasant duty naturally fell upon the deputy.
In Mr. Mitchell's words:
"On the day set for the execution, Ed Purst, John Head, George Blankenship, Charley Granger and myself set out on horseback
and went to Fort Steilacoom, where the prisoner was turned over to me. The scaffold had been erected about a half mile from the fort
and there the execution took place. Knowing that Charley Granger had been a sailor, I asked him to tie the noose
about the neck of the condemned man, which he did.
Leschi made a speech to the Indians that were there, but as his talk was in his native tongue and no interpreter being provided I
do not know what he said. These formalities having been gone through with, I knocked the pin out from under the trapdoor and
Chief Leschi was sent to the happy hunting grounds. He was undoubtedly as cruel and cunning an Indian as there was in the
Puget Sound country and deserved hanging. "
The scene of the closing act of the "Tragedy of Leschi" was a short distance east of Fort Steilacoom and near the north end of
the lake of that name. Here the prairie sinks into a rounding depression forming a natural amphitheatre, in the center of which
the gallows had been erected. The scene must have been a dismal one; the rain drizzled down, dripping drearily from the fringe
of stunted oaks which outlined the depression. Making a hollow square around the rude scaffold was a line of soldiers-and a
considerable number of Indians and settlers stood near watching the end of the tragedy.
Mrs. George Blankenship,
"The hanging of Leschi,"
Early History of Thurston County, Washington .
Olympia: n.p., 1914, p. 264-266.