A fort built at the Nisqually ferry crossing on the Joel Myers Donation Land claim was named Fort Raglan. The widow and children of James McAllister lived at the fort during part of the winter of l855-56 and a daughter, Sarah M. Hartman, has written of their experiences there.
Delbert McBride theorizes that the Fort was named for Lord Fitz Roy Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan, who died during the siege of Sebastopol in the Crimean War on June 28, l855, shortly before the fort was built. Edward Huggins, in a letter to Eva Emery Dye written in 1905 indicated that it was named for the baron. (Pierce Co.).
Edward Huggins, "Fort Raglan," Letter to Eva Emery Dye, May 22, 1905.
I have passed a night in one of the American Block houses, built in 1855.
The one I slept in was a miserable affair standing near the site of old man White's murder, by Yelm Jim, and his party of renegade hostiles, and not far from the place where Northcraft was killed, by the same band.
This defence shelter (it could hardly be called a Block house) was built near Nathan Eatons' place (a 53 or 54 comer) on the north east end of Chamber's prairie. It was a few small cabins built for defence, surrounded by a stockade of fir poles, or trees about ten feet high. A few families lived in this fortified place.
I have frequently passed by another Block house, called Fort Raglan, named after the officer in command of the British Army during the Crimean War of 1855 or 1856, I think. This name was General Lord Raglan. This was a log house, very strongly built, and stood on the Sand Spit, on the south side of Squally River, near the County Bridge. It stood there for many years, and may be standing there now.
I recollect now that I have seen other Block houses, some strongly built with square timber, and others slight affairs.
Edward Huggins, "Fort Raglan," Letter to Eva Emery Dye, May 22, 1905.
Sarah McAllister Hartman, "Memories of the Nisqually Valley," The Tacoma Sunday Ledger. February 20, 1893. (excerpts).
We reached the fort safely. The building was a barn with a stockade built around it. It had stock-sheds, divided by partitions, which made quite a nice place compared to the other places that had to be endured. Mother was prostrated with grief. After lying in the woods fifteen days, father's body was brought home to her, and was buried from this place with both military and Masonic honors.
Troubles never come singly, and a few days after father's funeral, my sister, Mrs. Thomas Chambers, left her baby asleep in its cradle and went out to care for mother, requesting brother George to care for it and us little ones. While she was gone, the stove was accidently upset, overturning a kettle of boiling water into the cradle and scalding the baby to death.
We remained at this post several months, and in the meantime Fort Raglan was built on the Nisqually, about two miles from our house. In order to be nearer home, mother moved to this place, and then our hard times began. There were nine in our family and we had rations for three men. We were there for one year, and I don't remember having a substantial meal during the time.
While there, my younger brother went to the farm to get something for the family to eat. John, while trying to shoot some ducks, shot himself in the hand, crippling himself for life. We had some very bad Indian scares in that place; my blood used to run cold when the order came "All children must sleep in the block house." We were packed like sardines in the upper floor of the block house.
On account of my brother being shot, mother could not go with us, so we had to go alone; lying on the rough puncheon floor with only a blanket over us. The lower part of the place was occupied by soldiers and if we made any noise they would swear at us.
One day an Indian came up the river, and as he neared the fort he put a white rag on his paddle and we paddling past in his canoe. Some young men spoke to the commander about it, but he would not permit them to intercept him, and several young men started in pursuit. One of them had been very recently married and his poor bride could not bear to see him go, so she locked him in their room, locking herself outside to be away from his persuasions to be released.
Nothing daunted, he kicked the door down and started after the other men, overtaking them before they got to the drift, where, sure enough there sat three Indians waiting for the fourth. The men waited too; presently he came and began to unload his ammunition, when the boys proceeded to convert him into a good Indian.
The sentinels were often firing off their alarm gun, thereby creating terrible excitement. At one time a company of soldiers were coming for reinforcements, General Winlock W. Miller commanding. Some overanxious sentinel fired his gun, thinking it was Indians coming to attack the fort. Someone in the fort gave a war whoop, and those coming up answered it. This caused alarm, each party thinking the others were Indians. To make matters worse, they had let us children out on the island to gather berries, sending a guide with us. As soon as the women heard the war whoop, they started outside for the children.
The officers ordered them to return but they did not feel obliged to obey, so kept on. The officers charged them with their horses, but several got through, mother among them. Meantime, we children were being sent across the slough in two small canoes. They put the small over first, making the rest await their return.
There we stood, while Indians (as we thought) were charging and about to cut us off from the fort. Both parties were yelling like mad. We little ones stood there until the others got over. I think I can tell very nearly how the soldiers feel in battle. All across, they then started us on a run across a sand-bar, where we sank ankle deep at every step, the men riding behind crowding us on.
The nearer the (imaginary) Indians came, the harder they pushed us. Seeing that the little ones couldn't make it, they began picking them up, putting them on their horses. Being rather stout, my feet were soon pulled from under me by my two leaders, and I was being dragged along, when an old man, named Weabaux, made a grab for me, but missed me.
Wheeling his horse, he tried it again with no better success. He then thought to frighten me, and drew his sword and thrust it at me, but I could only fall down and scream. Then he would make another grab with the same result. Becoming provoked he commenced to scold me, something after the following manner: "Geet up, you leetle fool. Geet up I say. I cuts your leggs off wit' mine sword" -- making a slash at me ---"Geet up, you leetle divil --- I cuts your head off next time." --Another slash---"Goin' right off and leaves her here and lets the Injuns eat her up alive! You leetle red headed divil, geet up--geet up!"
The old man was scolding at the top of his voice, he being a little deaf and thinking everyone else was more so. Some one picked me up on their horse and carried me to the fort. I never knew who it was.
This is a fair specimen of the scares in the worst place I was ever in.
Sarah McAllister Hartman, "Memories of the Nisqually Valley," The Tacoma Sunday Ledger. February 20, 1893.(excerpts).
Elizabeth McAllister Hawk, "The McAllister Family, " The Tacoma Ledger, July 10, 1892 (excerpts).
Mother remained in the fort all winter, but the next spring, wishing to be as near her property as possible, and a fort having been built in the meantime, she moved to Fort Raglan on the Nisqually river close to where Mr. Bennett's ferry is now. We found a number of other families in the Fort.
The Fort was such a short distance from home that mother used to send the boys over to see how things were there. One day my little brother, John, and a brother-in-law went as usual to see about the stock. They reached home all right and putting their guns down started to do their work, when John, who was only fourteen years old seeing a flock of ducks, reached for his gun in such a hurry that it went off and shot him through the right hand and wrist. He was placed under the care of Dr. Tolmie, but in spite of skillful treatment and good care he has always been a cripple, having little use of that hand since.
But in spite of hard times and danger they in the fort had some lively times. I remember of hearing them tell of a Mr. Miller who had business at the fort and he started from Olympia accompanied by a Frenchman by the name of Tebo. They had got within a mile of the fort when seeing a band of volunteers returning from a scouting expedition, they mistook them of Indians and started to run.
One of the volunteers seeing their mistake gave an Indian war whoop which added terror to their already frightened horses. Mr. Miller was thrown from his horse, and leaving him to his fate, Tebo rode toward the fort and seeing the children who had been allowed outside of the fort, as there was no signs of danger, started yelling at them to run for the gate and as my little sister was rather plump and was lagging the old man yelled at her, "you little deiffel, run, I say," but seeing that with fright and such encouragement she was not likely to reach the gates, he rode up her up, galloped in just as the gates were being and picking shut.
Our boys picked Mr. Miller up and brought him in. As there were a number of ladies in the fort(some of them widows), Mr. Miller had provided himself with an extra pair of pants, to be put on upon reaching the fort, and had worn overalls on the road. In the fracas he lost his pants, and the boys seeing this, made the loss a sore subject with him, and teased him without mercy, and being so frightened by the Indians that he ran away from that very useful garment. Mr. Miller afterward became a prominent citizen of Olympia.
Another day, after the volunteers had left us, a band of Indians appeared on the opposite side of the river, and after making many hostile gestures raised a red blanket. The few men in the fort wishing to show that they defied them, looked for something red to hoist in return. There was nothing found till mother came across a little red flannel skirt of mine, and they tacked it to a long pole, and raised it. The Indians, seeing those about the fort were not afraid, went away. I, though being only an infant, seem to have taken an active part in the war.
Elizabeth McAllister Hawk, " The McAllister Family, " The Tacoma Ledger, July 10, 1892. (excerpts).