Erastus Light, "Early Times in Pierce County.
Tacoma Sunday Ledger, June 19, 1893. Edited with notes by Gary Fuller Reese. Tacoma Public Library. Tacoma, Washington. June, 1983.
In 1892 Clinton Snowden, editor of the Tacoma Ledger, undertook a project to honor the early settlers of the Pacific Northwest by publishing their reminiscences in the Tacoma Daily Ledger and the Tacoma Weekly Ledger. As a prize for the best account Snowden offered two round trip railroad tickets to the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 under the statement: " They came with ox teams but they shall return in palace cars."
To be eligible a pioneer would have had to come to Washington before the arrival of the railroads either by wagon or by water. Snowden asked that Pioneers
"In writing state all the facts about the incident described, giving location and date as near as possible, names of other people interested, nature of the danger encountered, whether from Indians, wild beasts disease, hunger, thirst, storms, or whatever it may have been." (Ledger 8 April 1893 p. 6).
A goodly number of settlers responded to the request for historical sketches and the Ledger published them regularly for a number of months. In this manner the stories of John Flett, James Longmire, Urban E. Hicks, Charles Prosch, Edward Huggins, and other surviving community leaders were first published. In addition historical accounts of less prominent persons were also published and importantly the wives or widows of a number of early residents of the Pacific Northwest gave their versions of important events in the pioneer period of settlement.
The reminiscent account of Erastus Light of Steilacoom was published in the Tacoma Sunday Ledger on June 19,1892 and subsequently in the Tacoma Weekly Ledger. The contents of this pamphlet are exactly as they appeared in the Ledger with the addition of notes and other information felt important to more adequately tell the story of Mr. Light.
Gary Fuller Reese. Tacoma Public Library
Erastus Light's Story
List of the Longmire/Byles Wagon Train
Notes about the Light family
Resolutions of the Steilacoom Mass Meeting, January 26,1858
Notes on the Erastus Light Story
A Note on Leschi
E. A. Light of Steilacoom started for this country from Lima, in northwestern Iowa, a town which he himself laid out and where he
had built a mill. He says," I manufactured a wagon while there, I used to say with a jackknife--the wood for which I kept in water
for a year. I afterward assisted the blacksmith to iron it ready for use, and then painted it, striping it with a hen's
feather. I afterward sold the running gear of it to Sherwhood Bonney, in Steilacoom, for $175. I kept track of the wagon for more than
twenty years, most of which time it was in use in the Puyallup Valley.
In the fall of 1852 I sold out, mostly on time. On the 1st of April, 1853, I found myself ready to continue my journey to the far west. The party consisted of my wife, with a weak, sickly baby two years old, Charles Hadley, John Reagon (two young men who had worked for me a long time) and myself. We had five yoke of oxen, two cows, one Canadian pony, one heavy two-horse wagon (the one mentioned above) and one heavy one horse wagon.
We crossed the river and at night found ourselves on a broad prairie without a house in sight. We went on the next morning and as we struck traveled roads at Cedar Rapids, we fell in with two men and their families by the name of Cook, who were on their way to California. I had known the men before, and we decided to travel with them as far as consistent.
We found them very agreeable and were sorry when the parting came. They tried hard to induce me to change my mind and go to California, but I had started for Puget Sound and nothing could have changed my determination.
One afternoon a driving rain struck us. We were near a house and we laid over until the next day. The people were very hospitable, and that night insisted on my wife and I occupying a bed in their house, which we did. It was the last house we slept in for more than six months.
The next day we came to a stream where a bridge or boat was necessary in order to reach the opposite side. We concluded to make a bridge as a fine grove of poplars stood close by, and in a very short time we were landed safely on the other side. We passed on crossing the Des Moines River where the city of Des Moines now stands. Near here we saw a farm house near which was a herd of tame elk.
We journeyed through vast quantities of mud and water until we reached the bottom lands of the Missouri river, where we rested our animals about a week. We then arranged to cross. One morning early at Surprise Ferry, below Council Bluffs, while we were camped at the ferry, so as to be on hand early in the morning, I saw John Lane and Sam Ray, acquaintances of mine going on the ferry with a train. I knew they had started for Puget Sound, so I made haste to find them, after crossing the river, and made arrangements to travel on their train.
Here we reluctantly bid the Cook families good-bye and started with the train bound for Puget Sound.
Before arriving at the Elkhorn river, Lane picked out a camping ground and Sergeant, his brother-in-law chose another. When we came to the place of choosing Lane turned to his place and with seven young men and two wagons followed him. The others all went with Sergeant. We started for the ferry early the next morning and found enough wagons waiting to be ferried as to keep the regular ferry busy for a week. We also noticed some people crossing in dugouts that some emigrants had made.
We bought the canoes but had to wait a day for our turn to come. While watching the men operating the canoes we saw them, when empty, coming back for another load, run them under the current, and the men had to swim for dear life.
We at once made up our minds that there ought to be a deeper canoe. On the upper side of the river we saw a tree out of which we could make one, and all hands put to and by the time we could use it we had it ready.
Lane, the seven young men and myself had all our effects safely across in a short time with the exception of a loss to Lane of a valuable mare. He had tied a rope to the animal and took the end across the river. He then had the mare pushed into the current and between the mare at the end of the rope and the swift current running over the rope, the mare's head was dragged under water and she was drowned. It was a sore loss to our friend, for the mare was a valuable one.
Lane struck out, leaving Sergeant, and the seven young men and myself followed. We had a train of six wagons. It was about four months before we again saw Sargeant and his party.
We guarded our stock well all the way up the Platte river, as we were in constant fear of the Indians. The hunters of the party procured more or less fresh meat. We noted several exciting races after buffalo.
After we had passed some 400 miles up the Platte river, just for a change in the monotony, we were treated to a genuine hailstorm, which came upon us without warning. I told Reagon to go on the pony with the cattle which had all run in a huddle and I doubled my three yoke of oxen that were on the big wagon and Hadley brought the big oxen and little wagon on the other side so we had our oxen between us, and we made them stand and take the storm.
The wagons sheltered us a good deal, however. The other men unhitched their teams, and some of the oxen ran away, with their yokes on dragging their chains after them. Some had got the bow off the near ox, and the off ox ran away with the rest of the yoke. When the storm was over they had great trouble gathering up their paraphernalia.
After the rain and storm were over some of the cattle were found three miles away.
We soon got gathered together and pushed on again. This storm and several succeeding ones forced us to ferry some streams in my wagon box, which I had prepared for this purpose before starting out from home.
We soon began gathering firewood, as we were about to enter a stretch of country, about 200 miles wide, where there was no wood to be had. We in time had covered this uninviting strip of country, and had camped by good water and a nice grove of trees and laid over for washing. While here a hail storm came upon us.
The most of the men were out on a hunting expedition at the time. I hurried nearly all the cattle in the center of the grove, and the others ran in themselves. When the hail began to pelt them I tied the lariats of the horses to the first tree I came to. The storm in its fury was soon fully upon us and a large herd of cattle from neighboring camps came rushing by us, passing near the horses, but the lariats being strong kept the horses, and the cattle, with a little persuasion from myself and another man who had come to my assistance, decided the best thing to do was to stay where they were.
They wriggled about a little, but we managed to keep them within the grove, notwithstanding the severity of the storm, which proved to be much worse than the first one we experienced.
The cattle from the neighboring camps that had rushed by us went on, and when they reached the Platte river they plunged into it pell-mell and began swimming in a circle in the swift current. Some of them floated on down the river and gained the bank, but a great many were drowned.
There was a family camped in a sort of a ravine when the torrent came rushing down the sides of the hill, sweeping their yokes and wagon, and everything with it down the ravine. The family barely escaped drowning. Most of their things, except their provisions were recovered as they had lodged in some brush a little way down the stream.
A few days after this we were treated to some genuine fun. On the opposite side of the Platte river we saw two men in hot pursuit of a buffalo. When the animal reached the river he plunged in and swam across. His pursuers sent several bullets after him, but missed their mark. Our hunters grabbed their rifles and ran down to welcome the buffalo as he ascended the bank of the river, but he scorned their acquaintance and kept at long range and the contents of their rifles did no more good than those of the hunters on the other side of the river, now casting wishful eyes toward their escaping prey.
Lane was on horseback and got quite close, but the buffalo refused to wait for him. In the melee I had become somewhat excited and grabbed my double-barreled shotgun, which was loaded with buckshot, and ran ahead, thinking I might intercept the animal as he left the road, but I failed to connect.
Lane called for me to "come on", as if I could keep pace with him and his game. While Lane stopped to load his gun, I kept a close watch on the game, and noticed that he turned a right angle back toward the road some distance ahead. I saw that Lane had lost his game, and motioned to him where the buffalo had gone. He started in pursuit and soon had him in view, and was close on him, when he again crossed the road, and going up close to an emigrant's camp, stopped and sat down on his haunches not ten feet from him.
The man fired his pistol at him and shot him several times and he dropped over dead. The man's wife had fainted, and was lying apparently dead. She revived, however, and soon all hands were busy dressing the buffalo. My trip after the animal on foot was the subject of many a hearty laugh.
In a few days after this we were at Fort Laramie. After passing this point some distance, we one day met about 100 Sioux Indians, all mounted on horses, sitting as straight as so many cobs. Some of them could talk a little English, and relieved us somewhat of our fears. We then fully realized how utterly helpless we would be if we were attacked by these people. We felt that Providence was on our side, however, and that we should land safe on Puget Sound.
We soon saw the Platte River for the last time. We left the Black Hills behind us, and were passing ponds of alkali water near Sweet Water river. Near the crossing of this river is located the famous Independence rock, which is nearly covered with the names of travelers. Up the river a mile or so is the noted Devil's pass, where the Sweet Water river cuts a narrow channel through a mountain of rock and forms nearly perpendicular walls, up which lunatics have crawled to incredible heights to inscribe their names.
We agreed that we could get along very well without the light wagon, and a few days after crossing the Sweet Water we left it standing on our old camping place. We left it in good condition - cover and everything complete. We favored our cattle in every way we could. To the light wagon we had worked the finest yoke of oxen we had seen on the plains. In a few days after we abandoned the wagon it passed us with a span of mules drawing it.
The principal game in this section was antelope and jack-rabbits, of which we got our share.
In going through the south pass of the Rocky mountains, there was a gale of wind that we could scarcely make our animals face. It kept the sand and gravel rolling, and some of the lighter pebbles were picked up by the wind and blown with such force that they left a stinging sensation if they hit anything that had the sense of feeling.
When we reached Big Sandy river we found we were on a road which we didn't care to travel, so before crossing we struck down to the right, losing about a day's travel. On reaching Green river we found several of our party indisposed. Some of them did not regain their health until we reached the Bear river mountains, where we rested a couple of days. After our rest we went down into the valley of Bear river, where we arrived in the evening.
The mosquitoes were so thick it was almost impossible to breathe. Our stock suffered terribly. From this river we caught some trout. In this valley the big black crickets were so thick for miles that they nearly covered the ground. The Indians gathered them, fried them and used them for food, so we are told. The night we arrived at Soda Springs we didn't much like the actions of some Indians we noticed prowling around, and we had extra guards out, and there was not much sleeping done among us. We drank of the water from these springs, which had a very pleasant taste.
Here we parted with the seven young men who had been members of our party. They were going to California, and had accompanied us as far as practicable for them. We regretted to lose them from our train, for they were all educated, enterprising, civil young men, and hailed from New York.
Lane and his people, with our three wagons, turned into the road that led to Puget Sound and made very good progress on to Fort Hall and American Falls on Snake river. We passed on down Snake river to Salmon Falls, above which we crossed to the other side. We swam our cattle and horses and ferried our wagons. These falls are nothing more than steep rapids, or water rushing and foaming over rocks about a half mile, while the American is a perpendicular fall of the whole river.
The morning we left Salmon Falls we saw a drove of cattle, several hundred of them, going over the falls. The leaders got turned down the stream and the balance followed, and nothing could have stopped them. Some of the men barely escaped drowning. It was a terrible sight to see them rolling and tumbling over the rocks. All were badly injured, and many killed outright.
While on the north side of the Platte river our cattle got poisoned, and three of my oxen died. Lane also lost several cattle.
When on our way down Boise river we bought some red meated salmon from some Indians. It was the first we had ever seen. We decided unanimously that it was the best fish we had ever eaten. When we were almost ready to cross Boise River, we were encamped one evening, expecting to cross next day, when suddenly there was a noise as if bedlam had been thrown open, and the occupants were exerting themselves in celebrating the occasion. The brush between us and the place where the noise evidently originated obstructed our view, but knowing that the Indians were the cause of the proceedings we were very anxious.
We were badly frightened and pulled a little distance away by a patch of brush, where we camped without any fire, and with the open prairie around us. All hands stood guard that night, but we saw no Indians. In the morning we found that one of their number had died, and that they had been working all night for his benefit by shouting and hammering on boards, which noise was supposed to frighten the devil away. Whether or not their demonstrations succeeded in keeping that dignitary at a distance I do not know, but they certainly kept us pretty well stirred up.
After crossing the Boise River we were soon at Fort Boise, and here we ferried back across the Snake river to the south side. Two men and myself had crossed the river, and tried to induce the cattle to make a good landing. One of my large oxen had been poisoned, and was barely able to make his way, and we decided to keep him back and cross him in some other way. He was driven to one side and the other cattle pushed into the stream. They made a good and safe landing.
The sick ox had seen the cattle make the landing and had entered the stream, and to our surprise came to the bank, where he would have died if we had not had ropes and some way of getting him on dry ground and on his feet. He improved from this time on, and did me a good winter's work and in the spring I sold the yoke to Hon- Henry Roder of Whatcom for $350.
We tramped on to the Malheur river where we saw scalding hot water gushing out of the bank at the edge of the stream. We thought we must be pretty close to a hot place we had read about and moved on. In a few days we laid by to do our washing and we had to heat our water. We soon discovered that the stream by which we were camped had plenty of salmon in it. I had a fine five-tined steel spear with me, but the fish kept out of reach in deep water.
We had made a sort of a barrack out of brush and tied it firmly together and put a rope on each end and dragged the stream. I placed myself so as to catch the fish as they came down the stream, but they were so frantic in trying to escape the brush that was hurrying them on that they stranded on the sand at the banks of the river and the men kicked them out on dry land, and in a short time we had more than we could take care of for want of salt. We had great sport, and felt happy that we were journeying on toward the land of fish and clams.
We passed on over the hills, entering Burnt River valley and on down into the Grande Ronde valley, where we met Nelson Sergeant of Olympia, who was on the way to meet his father's family and conduct them over the Natchez pass in the Cascades. We told him we would camp there until he came back, and we waited ten days. The Indians were numerous. We had some interviews with them by means of gesticulations. We found trout in the stream near by, and had a good time in general, or as good as we could whilst in the place where we were surrounded by Indians.
Finally our old friends we had left at Elkhorn river rolled into camp and we had a genuine old love feast, relating our experiences since we had last traveled together. The next morning we started on our journey over the Blue mountains, crossed Wild Horse creek valley and the valley of the Walla Walla, crossing the latter river at the point where Dr. Whitman's home was at the time he and his family were massacred. In due time we reached Wallula on the great river of the great northwest, where we were delayed a week waiting for the ferry boat to be completed.
One afternoon the Indians put into a corral a band of wild horses. They would lasso one, blindfold him, array him with one of their primitive saddle-horse gearings, then they would worry him away from the yard when an Indian would mount him and pull a surcingle up across his knees which would effectively tie him to the horse, which would naturally make some wild breaks for liberty, and after becoming pretty well tired out the rider would pull the blind up from the horse's eyes, after which followed a great exhibition of leaping, jumping and floundering around, extraordinary in the extreme, and generally ended in a run, which continued until the horse was quieted.
Lane and myself again differed from Sergeant and his people about the best time and place to swim our cattle across the Columbia. We thought it best to cross where we were and to do so early in the morning before the sun would be in our cattle's eyes.
Although the river was wider here than further up, the current was not so swift. We made a bargain with Pew Pew Max Max to have a number of Indian canoes accompany our cattle and make them cross as straight as possible. The cattle reached the shore in good shape.
The remaining cattle and horses were taken further up the river to the foot of an island and successfully crossed over.
We ferried everything across that could not swim. The Indians, after getting the stock half way across the river, ceased their efforts and refused to go further without additional pay. There was no alternative but to pay them what they demanded, as the sun was then shining in the cattle's eyes and they were turning and going with the current.
More pay, however, induced the Indians to make further efforts, and they succeeded in landing all the stock, but some of them quite a distance down the river. I went after the stock and while on the trip I came across a rattle-snake. I had not yet learned to love these reptiles, and I quickly dispatched him. This was the only venomous reptile I ever saw in this state.
We proceeded up the Yakima River following an Indian trail, and crossed the river where the town of Prosser is now located. Pew Pew Max Max had gone on before us and had a beef dressed for us, waiting near where the trail left the river and we went around and through some small mountains. The beef was a good one and was bought at a reasonable price.
At this point we dug a grave and buried a man by the name of McCullah, the only one of our company that died on the journey. The funeral services were lonely and solemn and the occasion was particularly sad. I carved his name on a board and placed it at the head of his grave. We had seen a great number of graves one and two years old, on the way, and especially on the north side of the Snake river, where these lonely marks of former travelers were quite numerous.
However, the whole road was a succession of graves. Probably no year had been more exempt from sickness and trouble with the Indians since emigration had begun than the year 1853.
After completing the sad rite of this morning, we continued on our journey on the Indian trail, reaching a pool of water, where we camped until the next morning. After traveling several miles we reached a place in the trail, which we concluded was impassable. It was unanimously agreed that it was best that Mr. Sergeant should go on and find out for a certainty whether or not the emigrants of Puget Sound had opened a road by way of the Natchez river.
We went back to the place where we had camped the night before and camped again. I climbed to the top of a mountain and took a look over the valley. Below me lay the valley where the Yakima cities are now situated then barren of civilization.
Upon my return to camp I learned that some Indians had been there and had succeeded in making the members of the party believe that we should have taken a right hand trail. The majority seemed in favor of going over to the other trail, and accordingly the next morning we set off on the right hand trail, and after a hard day's tramp we found ourselves in a small valley on the banks of the Columbia river, where we camped for the night.
I had seen the Columbia River from the top of the mountains and knew we would reach it soon, but did not know that the trail followed a rocky bluff along which no wagon could go, which proved to be the case.
The women of the party generally believed it was a scheme on the part of the Indians to get us into this place and murder us, and consequently we spent the night in anything but a happy mood. Early the next morning we were on the move again, returning to our pool of water.
When we reached that place Mr. Sergeant soon put in an appearance and reported the road as being cut up the Natchez river, which resulted in livening our spirits somewhat, and we determined to work our way through someway or other following the ravines and gulches. We had first thought it impossible but came to the conclusion that "where there is a will there is a way." We retraveled our route and passed on, overcoming all obstacles by putting on more strength, rough-locking the wheels, etc. as the case required.
We soon found ourselves fording the Yakima river the second time, and after following it a few miles we crossed Wenas creek and followed it for some distance. Roughlocking all the wheels, we let ourselves down the side of the mountain into the Natchez river, which, in following we forded sixty-two times over a rocky bottom. This accomplished, we left the terrible stream, for such we had come to regard it, and traveled though heavily timbered lands on quite an easy grade, passing up to the summit of the Natchez pass.
In this place I measured one fir tree that measured more than 10 feet in diameter and 100 feet to the first limb, and which retained its full size well. On the summit of this pass I picked my first whortleberries.
The next morning early we started down the western slope, and after safely descending two steep slopes we reached a third, to look down which was enough to take the starch out of any living being except a pioneer. Our team could not go down the first few hundred feet in the yokes, but unyoking them, we took them around singly on a sort of a trail. We then rough-locked all the wheels and fastened a long rope to the hind axle-tree, the further end of which rope was wound several times around a tree, and by letting the rope out a little by little, the wagons reached the place where it was level enough to again hitch the oxen to them.
When my turn came I announced my determination of passing my team and wagon down without unhitching, whereupon there were many expressions as to my sanity. I also was called many undeserving pet names and especially by an old woman who was in the train, who seemed to think she had a peculiar right to give vent to her surprise and indignation.
I had the men who were tending the rope wound round the tree take particular precaution about letting the rope out, and told them to keep the rope tight enough to allow the oxen to lean their weight in the yoke. After making everything secure, I started over the precipice, reaching the lower level safely, where I hitched my cattle, that had been taken down before, to the wagon, and moved on down the mountain out of the way of those who were to follow.
The remaining ones on the top of the mountain decided to follow my example and all moved down the side of the hill like clock work Nothing happening until when Lane 22 started down the precipice. From some mismanagement his wagon got away from him and went crashing down the mountain, where he left it until the next season. He packed his goods on his horses and we again took up our journey.
The Green Water river was soon reached, where we camped, and where we had nothing but fir and cedar brush for our cattle to eat. The next morning we moved down the Green Water river which stream we forded fifteen times, on a bottom of rolling boulders. On this tortuous route all our people preferred walking, as bruises and bumped heads had taught them that there was no certainty of the wagons always being right side up, the wheels passing over logs, roots, and knolls made a seat in the wagon quite uncomfortable. On foot they followed the trail over some spurs of the mountain and thus avoided some of the crossings of that river, which certainly was not to be regretted.
On arriving at the White River, we struck an open spot of gravel prairie at the foot of Mount Latate--a rock several hundred feet in height, with the form of a person's head on the top of it. The name Latate is the Indian meaning of head.
At this point we were met with a second supply of provisions from the Sound, which was timely indeed, for some of our people had begun to feel the pangs of hunger. The obstructions and delays by rains in the mountains, together with the work that had to be done, had nearly worn our people out, and the meeting with these good Samaritans with their hospitable donations gave us good cheer and renewed our ambitions and we started on feeling much better for the meeting.
In passing down the White River, which we crossed seven times, we encountered a fire, which had felled much of the timber, which was a great detriment to us as we had to remove it from our way, causing us considerable delay, besides being exceedingly dangerous from falling trees and limbs.
The crossing of the White river was the most dangerous of any stream we had encountered, on account of the milky appearance of the water, probably caused by the continual grinding of the glaciers on the rocky, chalky, clayey surface of Mount Tacoma. We could not see the hidden rocks, and we were in constant danger while crossing the stream. Our cattle had fared badly without grass and before we were all across Mud Mountain some of the teams gave out and had to be taken on to where grass could be found, and after being refreshed with something to eat returned for the wagons.
In ascending this mountain many of the teams were not able to take their wagons up all the way. Some were taken up by means of a pole, some chains and some elbow grease applied at the small end of the pole. This was done by placing the butt end of a long pole on the upper side of a small tree, the end projecting beyond the tree some four or five feet to the end of which was attached a chain.
At the same distance from the tree on the long end of the pole was fastened another chain. The ends of these two chains were fastened to a single leading chain which was attached to the wagon. Several men would take the long end of the pole back and forth up and down the hill, some one being on hand to hit the two chains alternately as they bent loose. Each motion of the pole back and forth took the wagon up the side of the hill. While this operation may seem a little tedious, the reader will understand that we were then on our way to the far west.
Hon. James Longmier, John Lane and myself had better teams than most of the other members of our train, and we moved on, crossed Boise creek and camped on the prairie a day ahead of the rest. The following night we camped on Connell's prairie and the next on the Puyallup river bank.
While in the latter camp we put my spear to good use catching hump backed salmon, which made us a luscious feast, and which we all enjoyed. The next time we camped was on Nisqually plains, near Christopher Mahan's from where we went to Steilacoom with one team, returning to camp on the 10th day of October, 1853, and for the first time saw a branch of the briny ocean.
The next day Longmier, Lane and myself accompanied Levi Shelton to Yelm prairie where we stopped over night with John Edgar. (Edgar was afterward killed by Indians).
Longmier returned home with Shelton, bought his place and resided there ever since. He has been a member of the legislature several times, has grown rich and is respected by all who know him. He has raised a large family, all of whom are married and prosperous.
Lane and myself went on to Olympia returned the next day and moved camp to Byrd's mill, on Steilacoom creek. My first work was hauling potatoes for Lieutenant Slaughter which occupation lasted several days, and for which I received good pay. From that place I moved into Steilacoom, occupying a house that Captain L. Bills had donated to our use, and which I gladly accepted. I was immediately employed as a carpenter, on trial, gave satisfaction, and was employed steadily at $5 per day.
Meantime Lane had been given a chance of furnishing several cargoes of square timber and piles, and cord wood for short storage and insisted on my putting in my team and go into the business with him, sharing the profits equally. I did so, and in a few days we loaded our household goods, and a few necessary camping tools, on a small scow and set out on our first voyage on salt water, landing on the beach where the Pacific Mill now stands, near the smelter, in Tacoma.
The place was then a fishery, owned by John Swann and Charles Riley, the parties who had let the timber contract to us.
They had a long building on the beach which they used as a home while fishing and had given us the privilege of stopping in it while we were prepared ourselves a house. We landed just at dark, and notwithstanding the fact that were there about 100 Indians of all ages and sexes camped near, the men assured us that our goods were perfectly safe in the scow, and so after taking off our bedding and a few necessary articles, we decided to leave the remainder of them for removal the following morning.
There was a little anxiety about the goods, however, and about midnight Lane thought he would see if everything was all right. He meandered down to the path along the beach, stepped down on the beach--not on an Indian, but on a skunk, which immediately went to work at his peculiar business. Lane neglected the scow, turned and came into the house. When he entered there was a general chorus inviting him outside, telling him to leave his clothing out if he returned. He did so, and while there was a breath of a suspicion as to what had happened to him, we soon got reconciled to the inevitable, turned over and were soon fast asleep.
In a few days we had a comfortable house, for this climate, which we made from timbers that was near at hand, by setting posts in the ground and using poles to nail the shakes and clapboards to, and having dressed puncheons for the flooring with which our wives were well pleased.
After making the necessary provisions for our stock, we, with Charles Riley, and an Indian we had for a guide marked out a trail quite direct to Dougherty's prairie. We camped in the woods all night and the next day went on. We found some of our cattle with some wild cattle belonging to the Hudson Bay Company. There were four bulls with them which had frightened two half-breed children, who had climbed on a high root to get out of their way, and about which the big muscular fellows were pawing and bellowing frightfully.
One of our men began shooting at them, and the wild cattle took fright and all disappeared. We soon had our cattle on the way home. It was not an uncommon thing for the wild cattle to frighten people, but I never heard of anyone being hurt by them. Lewis Measeley was once driven up a tree by them, about which they stood guard until late at night.
We did well in getting out the timber, and when we had finished I began building a house for myself and family in Steilacoom which I still own, and in which I have lived nearly all the time. The young men, Reagon and Hadley, who had crossed the plains with us, lived with us and they helped me with my building.
My lumber cost me $25 per thousand at the mill, and $5 per thousand to get it hauled in. We did all the planing by hand. I made the window sash by hand without the aid of a sawmill. When the house was completed it was said to be the largest in the territory. Hadley and I were two weeks in cutting down the trees that would reach the house. I removed the stumps from my lots, fenced them, and set out some fruit trees, some of which are still standing. In the spring of 1855 I rented Lafayett Butcher's hotel and took Henry Wilson as partner.
We carpeted and furnished it throughout. We had a bar in the house but did not allow drunkenness, gambling or disorder of any kind. We soon had all the business we could attend to and made a good deal of money.
About the time we opened this hotel, the Indian war broke out. Many of our citizens were killed, business was almost suspended and homes broken up, with the exception of a few families who were on friendly terms with the Indians and which relations were sustained for a long time after the war had been raging and hundreds of pioneers had been killed. Governor Stevens proclaimed martial law, sent a troop of soldiers and had the Indian sympathizers arrested and placed in the guardhouse at Fort Steilacoom.
Some lawyers got out a writ of habeas corpus to release the Indian's friends from the guardhouse. This district court was convened, Judge Chenoworth presiding. Governor Stevens sent Colonel Shaw, with his company of volunteer citizen soldiers, to the courthouse, which they entered, took the judge from the bench and the clerk from his desk, and took charge of the books and records.
These extraordinary proceedings satisfied the hostile Indians that they had best make themselves scarce, and to take measures to restore peace and quiet. During the time I was in the hotel there was started in Steilacoom a paper called "The Puget Sound Courier. It was published by Affleck and Gunn. I had considerable money invested in the enterprise, all of which I lost.
I had charge of the county auditor's office, justice of the peace's office, etc. and was considered a handy man all around. The women and children were gathered in the block houses at nights, and the men who were left in Steilacoom took their regular turns standing guard on the outskirts of the town. Sometimes Indians in war paint would be seen, but they were not so numerous as at some other points.
After running the hotel about a year Wilson and I sold out. About this time I received word from my attorney in Iowa that he had taken my mill property and farm back, and that it would be necessary for me to return there and straighten up my affairs.
I immediately arranged for my family to stop with the family of Andrew Byrd, who, with several others assured me that they should want for nothing during my absence.
On the 1st day of February, 1856, I sailed on the bark Ork, and was twenty-two days on the way to San Francisco, and arrived at that place a day too late for the sailing of the vessel bound for the isthmus. The steamers made the trip only twice a month, so I had to wait in San Francisco two weeks. We then left, expecting to go via the Nicaragua route.
We were met at sea by the steamer that was returning, and were informed that they were seized by Walker, the filibuster at San Juan Del Norte, who would not allow passengers to pass through the country unless they paid him tribute, and that they had proceeded on to Panama, and advised us to do the same, notwithstanding the fact that their passengers had had a riot at Panama and some were killed.
However we had no other alternative and upon reaching the place were landed in row boats on the beach where a squad of soldiers were waiting to escort us to the cars, which were also guarded by soldiers. Here I took my first ride in a railway car, and looked upon my first locomotive. While crossing into Aspinwall I learned that only 300 of the 900 on board the train could take passage on the steamer awaiting us, as there were more than 1200 aboard.
The ticket office, baggage cars and steamer were inside of a yard that had to be entered by a small gate. I posted myself at the gate fully determined to be the first to go through and to procure a ticket, but after my very best efforts, made within the bounds of reason and decency, I was about the fiftieth one to get my ticket, and after I had it I was lifted up and had to crawl back over the heads and shoulders of the compact, struggling mass of human beings.
I rushed to the baggage car, procured a box and trunk which constituted my baggage, and carried it to the steamer. I was to change steamers at Havana, in Cuba, and from there would go via New Orleans and up the Mississippi river.
Six hundred of our passengers were left in Aspinwall for two weeks. Most of the passengers who succeeded in reaching the steamer did so without procuring their baggage, which in many cases was never recovered.
Havana reached, we went ashore. This was a fine harbor. Slavery in perfection was to be seen on all sides. Men were carrying loads like beasts of burden. Near the mouth of the Mississippi river a terrible storm of wind, rain, thunder and lightning overtook us. It seemed that our ship would never stand it, but it did, and we passed up the river, by the forts to New Orleans. Here we stopped two days.
I took a look around the town. Saw Jackson's battlefield and also his monument. Took a look at the French graveyards, where the corpses were deposited in vaults, three in a row, generally one above another in the wall that surrounded the block. Many fine and costly monuments were erected in the interior. I saw here many things that were new and of interest to me prominently among which was the market place for slaves, the place where human beings stood on exhibition as merchandise, awaiting their purchase by such as would bid the highest price.
I prayed that the curses of this cruel practice might soon be abolished, and that the dealers in such merchandise might meet their just reward.
I took passage from here to St. Louis. In the state of Arkansas I saw plainly visible the path of a terrible cyclone. The devastation caused by this storm was something terrible. In the same state we stopped to take on wood. Negro slaves had charge of the sale of wood. In answer to questions they said they were satisfied with their condition; that they had no care or anxiety as to their future, and that their master was a kind, humane man, and they would not leave him if they could.
When we reached the mouth of the Ohio river, imagine my surprise at seeing the city of Cairo, protected by enormous levees, standing where but a few years before there was a sea of water with brush visible here and there.
Near the same spot where the steamer Corsair had stove one wheel with driftwood, the steamer Flying Cloud, on which I was now traveling, picked up a piece of driftwood in one of the wheels, made several revolutions, and with the log, threshed the wheel house into splinters. Of course the steamer was stopped as quickly as possible. The cracking and threshing of the wheel house had made a terrible noise, and the people rushed from their berths to the deck, all excited, some in their night clothes, some shouting, some praying.
They were anxious to know if the boat was going to sink, and if it did, would it go down there, or could it be got to the shore. When they found that there was no danger of the boat going down, and that there was nothing damaged, only the wheel house, they quietly returned to their berths, no doubt ashamed of their conduct.
The next morning we arrived in St. Louis. After mailing a daguerreotype of myself to my wife and looking around a short time, I continued my voyage on another boat to McGregor's landing, where I arrived safely one morning in time to take the stage for West Union. McGregor and Prairie du Chein were now both thriving places.
One morning at breakfast an old man noticed me drinking cold water, and knew me. When it became generally known that I hailed from Puget Sound I was looked upon as I was oftentimes afterward, as if I came from another world, and questions of all kinds, sorts, and colors were asked me. There was a good load for West Union. We soon found that the most important thing to look after was some rails to lift and pry the stage out of the mud. The ride was slow and tedious. We changed teams, but did not reach West Union until after midnight of the next day.
The next morning I set off for Lima, and gave my mother and other friends and relatives a big surprise. Times were quite dull and there was not much prospect of selling property. I immediately went to work posting books for a merchant and to do some other writing for him. During the summer I repaired my mill and other property and took a contract to build a bridge across the river just below the mill.
In the fall I had a siege of fever and ague, and was getting ready to quit the country. By New Years day there was three feet of snow on the ground and the weather was freezing cold, several people having frozen to death. I made up my mind I was through with that country for good and disposed of my property again mostly on time, and started for my home on Puget Sound.
I purchased a layover ticket for New York. I stopped in Belvedere, Ill. and went up into Wisconsin, where I wallowed around in the snow about two weeks. I was disgusted with the climate, and made another start. I found my trunks in Chicago and rechecked them to New York City. I laid over again in Orleans county, New York, where my wife's people lived. I also stopped in Albany.
When I was ready to resume my journey the river had become blocked with ice, and backed the water into the warehouses and the railroad track was so inundated that we had to go through Connecticut. My baggage had been soaked in the water and many things I had were badly damaged. I had several valuable dress patterns for my wife which I was trying to dry in a room I had rented for that purpose. The landlady kindly offered her assistance in ironing them and putting them up in good shape. She was anxious to do this for me, and when I offered to pay her she would accept nothing. Her kindness excited my suspicions, and upon examination, I found that from three to five yards had been taken from each piece of goods. I said nothing but locked my trunks and kept mum.
A young man had noticed my name on the register and saw that I hailed from Steilacoom, W.T., and wished to accompany me on my voyage home. I felt a little suspicious, but he proved to be a good fellow. We looked about New York a good deal and saw there some of the sufferings of the poor and downtrodden.
At last, after a two weeks' wait, the day for sailing arrived. Some of the passengers proceeded to get good and sick as soon as we started out, but my friend and I had taken a preventative in the form of loaf sugar with some oil of peppermint dropped on it, which we ate, and we got through all right.
On board the steamer was a man and woman who used to promenade the forward deck a great deal of the time. The steerage passengers took a great dislike to them. One day when they were out on one of their walks a sea struck the forward quarter of the bow which caused a great splash on the forward deck, and knocked both the man and woman down, completely submerging them. This brought out a shout of laughter from the passengers, and the nabob and his lady kept themselves in the background from that time on.
When we entered Graytown, the Yankee sailor boys manned the rigging of their ships and cheered us heartily, as did the crews of the other war vessels. They sent a boat to receive their mail, and we remained long enough for them to answer their letters. They gave us a rousing cheer as we left, and in good time arrived in Aspinwall and proceeded by rail to Panama, thence aboard a steamer on the Pacific, which landed us at San Juan Del Norte, where we remained two days.
I felt great sympathy for Walker's wounded soldiers, who were lying on boards and suffering terribly. When we left, two of Walker's men were discovered on the steamer. A boat was lowered and sent back with them, leaving them at a place a long distance from any habitation. Several of the soldiers were found afterward and were put ashore at Manzanillo.
On the voyage the steamer was on fire different times, but nothing serious happened but once when several passengers were knocked down a stairway, breaking one man’s leg and injuring others severely. At San Francisco we took passage on their first steamer going north which was the old Oregon.
In passing over the bar of the Columbia we noticed the deck flooring, which opened and shut as the steamer moved back and forth. We decided to stay ashore in any event afterward rather than go on that boat again.
At Helens, on the Columbia we engaged passage with three men in a skiff, who were going to Rainier, where we landed about midnight. We accompanied one of the men to his home, which was on the Washington side of the river below the mouth of the Cowlitz, the point from which we wanted to start the next morning.
Our bed was a pile of hay in the corner of his cabin, our covering some old rags. Extreme poverty was here exemplified, but a king in his palace could not have been more hospitable, for he gave us of what he had and did it cheerfully and willingly, depriving himself and wife in order to do so.
The next morning early we started for Huntington's hotel at Monticello, where we took breakfast after which we started up the Cowlitz river, reaching Cowlitz after dark. Here we hired two ponies at $10 each, to take us on to Olympia. The first day's ride was through Sanders bottom, where for the greater part of seven miles we had to keep our feet drawn up along side the ponies to keep them out of the mud and water.
That night we stopped with Sidney Ford, on Grand Mound prairie. We arrived in Olympia late in the afternoon of the next day, and immediately started out on foot for Steilacoom, where we arrived late in the evening. I found my family well, and they were glad to see me, which gladness was reciprocated.
Almost immediately I went in partnership with Andrew Byrd and his brother, and we built a grist mill on Steilacoom creek, but not until I had built me a house, which stood where the town of Custer is now situated. John Reagon and myself built the mill, with a little help on the machinery and gearing, and had it running in good shape by the fall of '57.
During the summer the notorious Indian chief, known among the whites by the name of Leschi, was to be hung at Fort Steilacoom. He had been sentenced for clandestinely inciting his people to horrid deeds of murder and the spoilation of property.
Before this trouble there had been no trouble this side the mountains, in fact, all the following disturbances can be attributed to him and his secret work among his people. It is a pity and shame that there are men to be found to-day talking about judicial murder. They certainly have forgotten many of the losses, trials, and privations of the people who were not Indian sympathizers in the memorable year of 1855.
On the day set for execution a steamer from Olympia brought Governor McMullen, Secretary Mason, and other territorial officers, and nearly all the members of the legislature, and many citizens to witness the execution. Soon after their arrival came the hour for the execution. The time passed on, and no sheriff nor deputy were to be found. Excitement and indignation ran high. Secretary Mason accused me of being accessory to the thwarting of the laws. I soon convinced him and all others present that he was barking up the wrong tree.
I soon ascertained that through the assistance and counsel of a Lawyer (who was the only notary public in the county), the military officers of the fort, with the connivance and assistance of a United States commissioner, the county sheriff and his deputy, both of whom were more or less connected with the affairs of the garrison, and who lived just outside the military enclosure, had devised the scheme of arresting the sheriff and his deputy just at the hour Leschi was to be taken from the guard house to be executed. One of the lieutenants was made a deputy United States marshal, appointed by the commissioner, to arrest the sheriff and his deputy on a warrant issued by the commissioner on a complaint against the sheriff and his deputy, of selling spirituous liquor to Indians.
The bogus marshal arrested his willing prisoners, as previously arranged and sneaked off down town with them. The sheriff furnished the keys, and he and his deputy were locked up. It is doubtful if history records a more dastardly offense than this, considering the fact that it was the perpetrator's sworn duty to protect the lives and the people of the country, instead of the outlaws and savages who had waged warfare and destroyed lives, homes and property.
It is seldom that a more indignant crowd of people are found than that afternoon boarded the steamer for Olympia. I had the same feeling within me as did most of our citizens, and I was requested to draft a set of resolutions, and an indignation meeting was called for the next evening. The meeting was largely attended and I was elected chairman. The resolutions were unanimously adopted. They contained the name of each person connected with the preceding day's diabolical proceedings, and in general gave the opinion of the common public as to their actions. The most of the participants in this outrage are now dead, and I shall say let their names die with them.
I had business in Olympia and the next day went there on foot. I found the people indignant over the affair concerning the failure of the officers to act in the execution of the chief and several of the military officers and some others were hung in effigy. It became known that I had acted as chairman at the indignation committee and I was asked to state the sentiments of the people of Steilacoom, which I did.
Immediately there was an act passed, the legislature convened the supreme court, Leschi was resentenced and the sheriff of Thurston county was ordered to select a posse of thirty men and to proceed to Fort Steilacoom, take Leschi from the guard house and execute him, according to the sentence of the court.
The plan was carried out. Leschi was hung near where my mill stood. Thus ended the life of one of the inciters of the Indian war. I sold my interest in the mill to the Byrd brothers and returned to Steilacoom to live. I was soon appointed postmaster, which position I held for about fifteen years, much of which time it was the only post office in the county. I had received an appointment, without any previous knowledge of notary public, which office I held about thirty years, and for a long time I was the only one in Pierce County.
After receiving the above appointment, I received a commission as United States Commissioner which office I held for fifteen years. I was made foreman of the first grand jury that ever sat in Pierce county, when we indicted a large number of men for living in adultery with Indian women. The least proved case of them all was tried and the defendant acquitted. A molle prosequi was entered for the others.
While acting as United States commissioner, United States Marshal Huntington seized in Olympia a steamer owned by Jim Jones. He brought the steamer down and tied it to the wharf at Steilacoom and put a keeper aboard. The next morning the steamer was missing. It was next heard of on the way to Mexico. The owner was found in San Francisco, brought back and committed for trial. This affair cost Huntington all he was worth, but he finally got another foothold.
I went into the stationery business, and attended to that together with a lot of offices of different kinds until 1862 when I got J. H. Munson to run the post office and store while I took a trip to the Salmon River mines in Idaho.
With six other men I started. We stopped with Hon. E. Meeker the first night, and he sent some pack horses with us as far as they could go over Mud mountain. We stopped the next day at noon on South prairie, near John Flett's with whom I took dinner. Here we learned that some Indians had preceded us, and we could follow their tracks through the snow over the mountains. We crossed White river that evening and started up a trail on the side of a hill.
On ascending one of our horses lost his balance and went tumbling down the bank, first horse and then pack on top. He was not hurt and was soon on his way again. That night we camped on Boise prairie and the next morning dismissed the pack animals, and strapping about sixty pounds each on our backs we trudged on.
That night we camped where the snow was two or three feet deep. The next morning my brother-in-law and one of the others struck back for Steilacoom. The other three would have gone willingly if I could have been persuaded to do so, but I was determined to push on, and they stayed by me.
We manufactured a pair of snow shoes each and that day tried them. That night we camped on bare ground at the foot of Mount Latate. The next morning we waded Green Water river, put on our snow shoes, and tramped up the river. We finally reached a log, which the Indians had used to cross the river on, and one of the men started across without removing his snow shoes, but slipped and fell into the stream.
Another of the men started to cross with his snow shoes on, but fared almost as badly as the former one. Toward night we came to the river again, and here the Indians had felled a tree on which to cross. We crossed over and stopped for the night, building a fire in a large hollow tree, which gave us a fine warming and drying.
The next night we camped on the mountain where we, as emigrants, had let our wagons down, when on our way to Puget Sound. We made a fire on the snow, and left a hole, or sort of tent sixteen feet deep, where we had spent the night. We continued on over the Natchez pass, down the Natchez river, over the head of the Wenas, where we threw our snow shoes away. We crossed the Wenas on a brush bridge we built, and got an Indian to take us across Yakima river in a canoe.
We passed the hills and ravines that had caused us to turn back, on a previous trip; passed the pool of water to which we had returned twice, ferried the Yakima again, and engaged an Indian to take us down the Yakima and Columbia rivers to Wallula.
We then made a start in earnest for Lewiston. On the Tusha river we met an old man who told us, of the battle of Pittsburg landing, which made General Grant a hero. At Lewiston I met John Scranton, the jovial jolly steamboat captain of Puget Sound. Lewiston was a city in embryo.
In due time we arrived at Florence, in the Salmon river mines, and after many trials and hardships we started out prospecting and kept it up for two weeks. When passing one mine we inquired the name and was told that it was "Root, Hog or Die," and thought the place well named. I had tired of prospecting and concluded to buy something that was already found. I accordingly bought a digging, kept it about ten days and sold it for more than I had paid for it, purchased a pony and started home via The Dalles and Columbia River.
I arrived there with about as much money as I had taken with me when I started, and was out only about three month's time, but learned a good many things about mines and miners.
About this time the Western Union Telegraph company began to establish a line from Olympia to Victoria, and was to have offices at paying points. In fact they had to have an office occasionally for the convenience of repairing, etc. Mr. Haines, the manager, came to Steilacoom, but failed to see any one except Messrs. Keach and Martin, who ridiculed the idea of introducing a telegraph business to the fir trees of the country between the points named.
Mr. Haines returned and ordered the line constructed through between American and Gravelly lakes. I had not known anything about the visit of the manager, but as soon as I found that a line was being run through that part of the country I at once went to work to get it located through Steilacoom.
I was informed that the route would be changed if the citizens would erect the poles on the three miles intervening between the line and Steilacoom, and would furnish an office and someone to attend to it for half the receipts. If this was done, he would send the necessary office fixtures and would send a man to stay two months to teach some one and show him the run of the business.
There wasn't a person willing, nor one that did give a cent toward the enterprise. I cut and put the poles on the line the whole three miles; dug the holes at my own expense and John Latham and I, and I think one or two others raised the poles and strung the wire. Sprague was sent to stay two months, but the office paid so much better than was expected that he was kept there.
In 1854 1 was nominated for territorial councilman for King and Pierce Counties. In King county the two parties divided the joint representatives between them and voted solid for their two men, and Pierce voted the party ticket and elected the King county men and lost the capitol of the territory by one vote. I was run the next year for a representative to the lower house, but against my wishes, and I caused my defeat.
About 1864 or 1865 I was again nominated in joint convention of Pierce, Mason and Chehalis counties for joint councilman, but again defeated myself.
In connection with my other business I kept on hand some garden seeds, and among other things I bought were twenty-four hop roots, which cost in San Francisco $3. I set them out near my house and they were the first hops ever seen growing in Pierce county. J.R. Meeker, father of E. Meeker, got some of my hop roots and set them out near Sumner, and they were the first hops planted in the far famed hop growing region of the Puyallup valley. This variety of hops proved a little too late for this climate, and, after a few trials, the variety was introduced, I think, was the same, or very nearly the same as is now grown in the valley.
Later I formed a partnership with Isaac Pinkus and Adolph Packscher, which partnership lasted about seven years, during which time we did a large business. We soon owned the Webber wharf, the Byrd grist mill property, the Sherwood sawmill property in North bay, and the schooner Clara Light which we run between North bay and San Francisco. I kept the books and attended to my offices, having six of the latter when I became a member of the firm. I was acting as county surveyor, county treasurer, United States commissioner, probate judge, and postmaster. I got rid of the offices as soon as I could so as to be better able to carry on my business.
A short time after this Egbert Tucker, sheriff of Pierce County, wished to raise a company of Washington territory volunteers to garrison Fort Steilacoom and asked me to take charge of his office, post notices for a new election, look after the prisoners, collect delinquent taxes and close up his business, which I did.
Hon. Steven Judson was elected sheriff, and proved equal to the duties laid upon him. The jail was also the United States penitentiary, state prison and county jail, so we had everything in one, and some pretty lively times, too.
During the year 1863 Andrew Byrd was killed. A man by the name of Bates was around town and he had spent nearly all the day behind the stove in my store. When it came time to close the store he went out, and the next morning he was on hand again and resumed his seat of the day before. I had noticed him and was a little suspicious but paid no particular attention. I had stepped out of the store for a short time and was busy when someone rushed out, calling to me that Byrd had been shot in the post office. I rushed to the scene, but Bates had been taken care of and was safely behind the bars of the jail.
Byrd had been shot in the lower part of the body near the groin. The wounds were pronounced fatal. Excitement was at its highest pitch, and I could see an undercurrent of will and determination that meant business to the murderer if Byrd died. He lived a day or two, and as soon as his death became known the town was full of men, and it seemed that those living at a distance had got there as if by magic, they made their appearance in such a short time.
The crowd assembled at Keach's store. I was sent for and requested to go to the jail and interview the murderer. I did so. The man denied that anyone was accessory to the crime, but that he had killed the man of his own free will, and had meditated the deed. We returned to the place of the gathering and reported that the doomed man had said. They had a long rope, with a running noose, sledge hammers, picks and crowbars.
Keach spoke and said: "Boys, you know your duty." They needed nothing further.
They followed Keach to the jail. I followed after them. They commenced at the upper door. I had superintended the building of the jail and knew something of its construction, and I told them if they were determined to go into the jail they had better enter by the lower door, at which they few being their sledges and hammers, all to no avail.
They grabbed up a large square piece of timber and used it as a battering ram, but the door stood the test. I told them the best way, and the way of the least damage was by removing the brick at each side of the door frame, which they did, and soon the door, frame and all was lifted out. The sheriff had placed inside one long, heavy, three-inch plank, secured the other end to the floor and was standing on it. The board came forward with a crash when the door was removed and some of the determined men barely escaped being caught beneath it.
The sheriff was armed but he did not long remain so. The cell that contained the murderer was broken into and he was dragged out, badly frightened. Someone cried out to give him a fair trial, whereupon I was appointed judge. I declined having anything to say in the matter, as he had acknowledged the crime, and the mob knew it.
The man whispered to some one that he wanted to see old Mr. Meeker. A man was sent out on the road to watch for any soldiers that might come and another dispatched for Mr. Meeker who refused to come. In the meantime the rope had been placed about the man's neck, and about 100 men now lay hold of it and he was led to a barn, from which protruded the end of a pole.
Over this the rope was thrown, and under it the man was placed, nearer dead than alive. He whispered to someone, for he could not speak audibly, that he wanted to see me. I went to him and took down his requests in a book, and, as I was soon afterward made probate judge, I saw all of them carried out. When he had finished speaking I said to the crowd that he had nothing more to say, and in a moment more his body was swinging in the air. He showed no signs of life nor feeling after being lifted from the ground and he was let down a corpse. No one was ever punished for any part they took in this affair.
About a year after this event a reign of terror prevailed in the neighborhood of Muck valley. A man by the name of Gibson jumped a donation land claim belonging to Charles Wrens. The claim jumper was assisted in his dastardly work by a man named McDonald, and some others who were in the same business. One day Wrens was on his way to Steilacoom when he was waylaid by three of the gang and was taken into the woods, tied to a tree and whipped well nigh to death, where he was left.
This occurred about a half mile east of American lake. Wren succeeded in getting away from the tree, but was so badly frightened that he was afraid to make himself known, and as soon as he was able he left for Victoria, where he was afterward joined by his family.
The other citizens were not so easily scared, and they combined and paid off the outlaws.
It became known that McDonald and Gibson were coming to town one day, and they in turn were ambushed near America lake by a crowd of the outraged neighbors. As the men were riding past bullets came flying past them. Gibson was shot two or three times, but not fatally. McDonald escaped serious injury.
The horses were both wounded but not seriously. Gibson stopped at the garrison to have his wounds dressed. McDonald came on into Steilacoom, riding through the town on a run to the stable, and sent a wagon after Gibson. He went out into the street and in a loud and excited manner told what happened. He came to the store and wanted a hat having lost his in the retreat, and I gave him one, and told him he had best keep a little quiet, or seek a safe hiding place, and, above all things, to be careful of what he said.
I went up to my home, acquainted my people with what had happened, and told them to give themselves no trouble on my account, and that I would come back safe. Armed men were to be seen coming in on the three roads, and before I got back down town I heard loud talk and guns were being fired. McDonald had said something that displeased the men, and one of them had called out "Kill the ..............
McDonald sprung into Westbrook's saloon, running for the back door. Several shots were fired after him but none of them struck him. Finally a charge of buckshot from the back door of the saloon struck him in the side of the neck and he fell, and when I reached him he was dying, and in a manner he had always held he would die--with his boots on.
When the wagon returned from the garrison with Gibson the armed men took possession of it and started it up the hill again. When Gibson, who was lying in the bottom of the wagon, saw that he was being taken into the woods he sprung up and grabbed a pistol from the belt of one of the men in the seat in front of him and began shooting at the men walking by the side of the wagon. He wounded two of them slightly, but bullets soon quieted him, and he was put out of the wagon by the side of the road and left there.
Some of the men who had a part in this affair were put to a little expense, but none of them were punished. These proceedings in Pierce County and similar ones in King County no doubt had a salutatory effect all over the territory.
Railroads and money now began coming to this country, and prosperity and increased population followed, and the pioneer was again introduced to civilization. He also met with the ridicule of some, who, with few brains and less sense, with great pomp on their part, try to make light of the "mossbacks," never stopping to think that it was the pioneer that made the cradle in which he is now being rocked, and that they had placed in the ashes the chestnuts they are now scratching out, and of which the pioneers are helping to dispose.
The incidents that might be narrated concerning the founding of this, the grandest and richest state in the Union, would make an interesting book instead of a newspaper article. I began this summary of some of the incidents of my own life in response to a call from the Ledger and at the earnest request of many friends.
Many foreign incidents have been necessarily drawn in the narration, and the story is more than double the length I meant it to have been, and I expect a good deal longer than the law really allows me. When we, who have passed through the hardships and privations of pioneer life, begin to allow our minds to drift back over the years, the incidents all come to our view so plainly that it is with reluctance that we close our story.
For further details of matters of interest pertaining to this country, I would respectfully refer the reader to Hon. Elwood Evans, the Josephus of the northwest, to whom I listened a short time ago deliver in a masterly manner an address at Ocosta-by-the-sea. While at Grays harbor I visited Westport, on Peterson's point, by the ocean beach, and in company with Hon. Edward Huggins, visited the old fort built by Captain Maloney of the regular army, in the year 1855, and which was garrisoned by volunteers under Lieutenant E. T. Jester, the Steilacoom jeweler. When this fort was built, thirty-seven years ago, the space intervening between it and the sea was a prairie. It is now covered by a dense growth of Norway pine and fir trees about a foot in diameter.
E. A. Light. Steilacoom, Washington. Tacoma Sunday Ledger. 19 June 1892. Ppgs. 9-10.
FIRST IMMIGRANT TRAIN TO CROSS CASCADES - LIST OF PARTY IN TRAIN - THE BONNEY LIST
The following members of the party were from Kentucky:
Nancy M. Biles
George W. Biles
James M. Biles
Kate Sargent Biles
Susan B. Drew Biles
Ephemia Knapp Biles
Mrs. Sarah W. Byles
David F. Byles
Mary Jane Hill
Rebecca E. Goodell Byles
Charles N. Byles
Sarah I. Ward Byles
John W. Woodward
Bartholomew C. Baker
Mrs. Fanny Baker
Mrs. James Gant
Mrs. Isaac Woolery
Robert L. Woolery
James Henderson Woolery
Sarah Jane Woolery
Mrs. Abram Woolery
Jacob Francis Woolery
Daniel Henry Woolery
Agnes W. Lamon Woolery
James E. Baker
John W. Baker
Leander H. Baker
Mrs. Olive B. Baker
Joseph N. Baker
William LeRoy Baker
Martha Young Brooks
William R. Downey
Mrs. William R. Downey
Christopher C. Downey
George W. Downey
James H. Downey
William A. Downey
John M. Downey
Louise D. Guess Downey
Jane Clark Downey
Erastus A. Light*
Mrs. E.A. Light
Mrs. George Melville
Kate M. Thompson Melville
Israel H. Wright
Mrs. Isaac H. Wright
Benjamin Franklin Wright
The following members were from Missouri:
Susan Latham Downey
Laura B.Bartlett Downey
Mason F. Guess
Austin E. Young
Henry C. Finch
J. Wilson Hampton
William M. Kincaid
Susannah Thompson Kincaid
Joseph C. Kinkaid
Laura Meade Kincaid
Ruth McCarty Kincaid
Mrs. Harris Gant
Elizabeth Bell Wright
Rebecca Moore Wright
Annis Downey Wright
The following were from Indiana:
Mrs. James Longmire,
John A. Longmire,
Tillathi Kandle Longmire
* Mr. Light came from Lima, Iowa. The list Bonney prepared was
published in 1927.
Mrs. Tyrus Himes
George H. Himes
Helen L. Ruddell Himes
Judson W. Himes
Lestina Z. Eaton Himes
Charles R. Fitch
Mrs. Asher Sargent
E. Nelson Sargent
F. M. Sargent
Matilda Saylor Sargent
Rebecca Kellet Sargent
Mrs. John Lane
Clark N. Greenman
The following came from Illinois:
Mrs. Elizabeth Frazier
Mary Frances Gordon
Mrs. Peter Judson
John Paul Judson
Mrs Mary Ann Porter McCullough
Gertrude S. Delin Mueller
The following were from unknown states:
Daniel E. Lane
Mrs. Daniel E. Lane
William H. Mitchell
Mrs. John Steward
Thomas J. Steward
Other lists differing in detail were published in the Washington Historical Quarter, Volume VIII, p. 22 and in the Oregon Pioneer Association. Transactions of the 35th Annual Session, p. 150-152.
A note in the files of the Tacoma Public Library indicates that E.A. Light died November 6,1899 in California.
His son, Ira Light, for whom a street is named in the town of Steilacoom, Washington was born in Steilacoom on 8 March 1860 and was killed by an automobile in Tacoma on 21 March 1935. He married Sarah L. Comstock in Steilacoom in January of 1894
The 1854 Census of Pierce County lists the Light family as follows:
E.A. Light, aged 36, a farmer born in Lyette Iowa.
Caroline,his wife, aged 26 born in Lyette, Iowa.
John J. Regan, aged 27, a farmer born in Lyette, Iowa.
Charles Hadley, aged 32, a farmer
Henry E. Light, aged 21, a farmer.
They were numbers 229 to 233 of the 352 individuals enumerated.
The 1860 census lists E. A. Light as being aged 37 and with his wife C. A. Light there were four children, three boys and a girl.
Ira Light's obituary indicates that he purchased his father's businesses in 1888.
An expert in genealogy writing about the censuses indicated that the rather casual way the county assessors were expected to take so many annual and biennial censuses means the surviving lists must be filled with errors and omissions...The reason is clear. In a letter forwarding the 1889 census to the territorial auditor, Columbia County auditor wrote:
The census business taken by the Assessors is a kind of humbug anyway. It makes me tired to look at the original of this in my office, and if this makes you feel the same way you have my sympathy.
Hence the errors.
William Thorndale, "Washington Territorial and State Censuses," Genealogical Journal VIII(March 1979), p.23.
E.A. Light was selected chairman of the mass meeting of the citizens of Steilacoom held on January 26, 1858 where the following
resolutions were adopted:
"Whereas, the County of Pierce in the Territory of Washington, is fast gaining a disgraceful notoriety in other counties of this Territory, and in other parts bordering on the Pacific Coast, and in all places where the acts of a part of her citizens are known, which the undersigned citizens of Pierce County have long endeavored to ignore to the world; and, whereas, the said County of Pierce embraces within her borders a very large amount of arable lands, also good inroads and fine navigable harbors, and we verily believe some as good law-abiding citizens as can be found in any other country or place that can be mentioned and
"Whereas, certain citizens, implicated in the disgraceful farce enacted at Fort Steilacoom on the 22nd inst. to prevent the execution of Leschi, have complained that they have not had a chance to vindicate themselves, and
"Whereas, the hour appointed having arrived in which every citizen of the county was invited to participate, and the said parties having refused or neglected to attend, therefore:
"1st, Resolved. That we, the people of Pierce County assembled, do now denounce George Williams, the present sheriff of this county, as a base hireling, unworthy the position he now occupies, and the confidence of any good law-abiding citizen; and especially do we wish to express our indignation at the part our said sheriff acted in the late farce of the non-execution of the sentence of the law and justice upon the notorious Indian Leschi, who a few short months since was murdering, in cold blood, our inoffensive and defenseless neighbors and their children, and would, had it been in his power, swept every civilized being from this fair land.
"2nd, Resolved. That we do most earnestly pray that the proper authority will remove and disencumber the present 'tool', namely James M. Bachelder, of the high position of United States commissioner, and confer the trust to a more honest man.
"3rd Resolved. That we consider the thing that calls himself an attorney, namely Frank Clark, the instigator and planner of the late most ridiculous and unparalleled outrage which robbed justice of her rights, and again jeopardizing the lives and property of our frontier settlers.
"4th, Resolved. That we believe a part of the officers of the military garrison at Fort Steilacoom are a clog and detriment to the execution of civil law.
"5th, Resolved. That we hold as enemies to law and order all who did, do, or shall in any way countenance or uphold the foregoing named persons in their acts on the 22nd day of January, 1858, and previous thereto, in clogging the executions of the law and justice in the case of the Indian chief Leschi.
"6th, Resolved. That we now firmly believe (as it has long been supposed by some) that Dr. W. F. Tolmie and the other representatives of the Hudson's Bay Company are the Indians' friends and abettors, and the enemies of the American citizens; therefore, we do most humbly pray that the United States will deliver Pierce County of this very effective blight and curse.
"7th, Resolved. That we deprecate and denounce in unmeasured terms the grogshop influence which has ever controlled our elections in this county, and we are determined in the future, to withhold our patronage in every way and form, and will disown as a neighbor or citizen anyone that may in the future, under any pretence whatever, exert said influence at any of our elections.
"8th, Resolved. That the undersigned citizens of the County of Pierce think and conceive it to be a duty that we owe to ourselves, our families, our friends, and our country to publish to the world that we have resolved to see the civil law of the land and the decree of our courts executed in the future, though it be at the expense of our property or even our lives.
"Resolved that we exonerate Captain M. Maloney from the censure expressed in resolution 4, respecting the military officers at Fort Steilacoom.
E.A. Light, Chairman.
F. A. McCarty, Secretary.
and sixty-four others.
Twelve others signed the resolutions with reservations mostly excluding the condemnation of the officers at Fort Steilacoom and in the case of five of them the condemnation of the sheriff.
1. James Longmire was interviewed many years after the arrival of the wagon train. He recalled that he and Mr. Sergeant were on one side of the river and that Mr. Lane and Erastus Light were on the other. Longmire told his interviewer that Lane blamed Sergeant for the loss of the horse and that Lane had to be stopped from striking Sergeant who was his brother-in-law.
2. Fort Laramie was founded in 1834 as an Indian trading post on the left bank of the Laramie River nearly one mile above its junction with the North Platte River. In 1849 the United States Army occupied the post and it was soon after purchased by the Government as a base for the protection of the emigrants using the Oregon Trail
It was a major stopping point on the trail until the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s (Fraser, p. 182). One prominent writer of western history (Ghent, p. 134) wrote of Fort Laramie "...no other fort west of the Mississippi has had such a background of stirring and colorful history."
3. Devil's gate is a deep gorge about one hundred feet wide and thirteen hundred feet long with side walls reaching a height of nearly five hundred feet through which the Sweetwater River flows.(Gregg, p. 153.).
4. Van Ogle claimed to have had trouble with the Mormons who operated a ferry on the Green River. He recalled in 1912 that a charge of five dollars per wagon was asked for use of the ferry and that his party refused to pay and crossed the river on a nearby ford.(Van Ogle, p. 271).
5. South Pass is "...so gradual .... that only careful measurement could tell ... when the summit was reached." (Ghent P. 139).
6. The route was fifty miles without water and was usually avoided. (Ghent, p. 140).
7. The route that they took was probably the one known as the Hastings cut-off which went by way of Salt Lake City to California (Ghent, p. 142).
8. Fort Hall was built in July of 1834 by Nathaniel Wyeth as a fur trading post. Jason Lee preached the first Protestant sermon west of the Rocky Mountains at the Fort. It was eventually purchased by the Hudson's Bay Company.(Ghent, p. 361.).
9. When the party of which Longmire was a member later crossed the river James Longmire saved himself from possible drowning by grabbing onto the tail of an ox that was swimming the river.
10. Longmire claimed that the cattle poisoning occurred because they had "...grown somewhat careless about consulting our handbook. " Many early travelers were guided across the plains by guidebooks what had been prepared by those who had previously made the trek. The only remedy available for the sick oxen was bacon and grease forced into the throats of the cattle. (Longmire, p. 88.).
11. Fort Boise, a Hudson's Bay Company post, was founded in 1834 on the Boise River. In 1837 the fort was moved to the east bank of the Snake River about a mile below the mouth of the Boise River. It was this fort that Mr. Light visited. It was abandoned in 1855 and was later relocated at least fifty miles from the present capital of the state of Idaho (Hafen, p. 86.).
12. Longmire indicated that Sergeant told the group that workers were then building a road across Naches Pass for their use. George Hines, a small boy on the journey remembered that Mr. Sergeant did a good sales job on opportunities available on Puget Sound. (Hines, p. 35).
13. Indians killed Dr. and Mrs. Marcus Whitman and twelve others on November 29, 1847 at their mission. The Cayuse Indians kept fifty three women and children captive for some weeks. The site was near the mouth of Mill Creek on the right bank of the Walla Walla River. The buildings were abandoned and the mission was discontinued. (Garth, p. 135).
14. David Longmire remembered that the party whipsawed their own lumber and constructed a scow which they used to cross the river. (David Longmire, p. 25).
15. George Hines recalled that Peu Peu Mox Mox took a fancy to his small sister who had "...beautiful golden hair..." and offered to purchase her in exchange for a number of horses.(Hines, p. 144).
16. David Longmire remembered the price to be fifteen cents a pound. (David Longmire, p. 26). Peu Peu Mox Mox was killed near Fort Walla Walla on December 7, 1855 while under arrest.
17. George Hines who later worked for the Oregon Historical Society estimated that 30,000 people died on the Oregon Trail between 1842 and 1859. He said that not less than 5,000 persons died of cholera in 1852.(Gree p. 205.).
18. James McCullough's death was the only one on the trip. His wife had later given birth to a daughter and this was the only birth recorded.(Hines, p. 144).
19. James Longmire recalled that their Indian guide who was hired on the Columbia River deserted the wagon trail leaving them without a compass. Misunderstanding advise from other Indians, the wagon train took the wrong trail.(Longmire, p. 92).
20. The Journal of occurrances of Nisqually House (Fort Nisqually) for August 6, 1850, indicated that a group of road builders had visited the post on their way to cut a road to Walla Walla at that time. The Journal indicates that the road was to be paid for by subscriptions from Puget Sound settlers (Magnussen, p. 171.).
21. Mrs. Longmire and Mrs. Light met Andrew Burge who was bringing supplies from Steilacoom for the road builders who had already left the mountains having heard that the wagon train was not going to use the Naches Pass route. Burge returned to Steilacoom and was remembered favorably by the Longmire-Byles wagon train members for he spent time marking the trail into Puget Sound for the group.
22. Mr. Van Ogle, when interviewed in 1912, recalled that Lane's team and wagon were the first to be let down and that the accident occurred at the beginning of the negotiation of the one hundred eight foot cliff. (Van Ogle, p. 270).
23. Mr. Light was loyal to the local name for Mount Rainier. The city of Tacoma and residents of the area spent a considerable amount of energy attempting to have the mountain officially named Tacoma but failed.
24. James Longmire remembered that some of the party stayed up all night cooking and eating fish.(Longmire, p. 100-101.
25. Mrs. Mahon took the ladies into her house and fed them which Longmire remember was "...like a Royal Banquet."
26. Longmire remembered that it was Martin Shelton. (Longmire, p. 103).
27. Edgar was a retired Hudson's Bay Company employee who had helped survey for the trail. His death during the Indian war was probably accidental since most Indians had a good opinion of the Hudson's Bay Company and would not have gone out of their way to harm a former employee.
28. Longmire told his interviewer that he chose his home south of the Nisqually River at present Yelm because William F. Tolmie, Chief Factor or agent of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Nisqually gave them "...due notice ... not to settle north of the Nisqually River...."(Longmire, p. 103). The Hudson Bay Company and its subsidiary, the Puget Sound Agricultural Company claimed much of what is now Pierce County for their flocks, herds and gardening activities.
29. Lieutenant William A. Slaughter was the commissary officer at Fort Steilacoom and he hired a lot of civilian labor. He was accompanied at the Fort by his wife who for some time was the only white woman at the Fort. Slaughter was killed December 4, 1855 while serving in the Indian War. Since the Army officers were trained in a variety of professions, they often assisted the civilian community. Slaughter surveyed part of the present city of Steilacoom.
30. Chauncey Baird, a cooper, established a small cabin, shop, and storage shed close to the water near present Old Tacoma. He manufactured barrels for John Swan and Peter Riley who were catching salmon in Puget Sound. These men and their employees would salt the fish and send them in Baird's barrels to San Francisco. (Hunt, p. 15.).
31. William P. Dougherty owned land south of South 72nd Street in Tacoma between South Tacoma Way and present Lakewood Boulevard. Generally locations were known by the owner of the land, hence Dougherty's prairie. (Bonney, I, 144).
32. The wild cattle mentioned by Mr. Light were owned by the Puget Sound Agricultural Company. They were called "Spanish cattle" because they were driven overland from California, then under the control of Mexico. The British tried to improve the breed by importing the best strains of British cattle but were unable to change them from the type of cattle seen by Mr. Light. In 1853 the herd was estimated to be at 5,770 with 1,500 being listed as "...missed, killed, or driven off by squatters." As the Americans moved into the territory, the Hudson's Bay Company complained that the squatters (Americans) stole or killed 6,058 head of cattle between 1853 and 1856. (Galbraith, p. 111).
33. Rose Rigney O'Donnell lists Mr. Light's home as occupying lots 1-2-3 of Block 48 of Balche’s part of Steilacoom.
34. As one of the few towns on Puget Sound Steilacoom had its share of drinking establishments. One person wrote, "...scarcely a day passes that there is not a row in town, either by drunken Indians or drunken soldiers, and often both.... and now and again a disturbance is kicked up by beachcombers.... our town has won for itself a name no means enviable." (Steilacoom Historical Quarterly, Summer, 1977, p. 9).
35. Valeria K. Pigott authored a master's thesis entitled "Early History of Steilacoom," for the University of Washington in 1926. For this period of time (May, 1855), she listed Steilacoom as having seventy houses, six stores, two blacksmith shops, one tailor shop, one cabinet maker, three hotels, a church, a school, a printer, one saloon, two bowling alleys and the wharf. Nearby were three saw mills, the grist mill and the flour mill.(Pigott, P. 16).
36. The Indian War of 1855-1856 is too complicated to cover in a footnote. The issue reported by Mr. Light was concerned with a declaration of martial law in the county. Lieutenant Silas Casey, commander of Fort Steilacoom, accepted custody of a number of persons arrested as "neutrals" in the Indian war, chiefly French Canadians who had married Indian women. So outraged at the claim of "neutrality" by these men Territorial Governor Isaac I. Stevens determined that he would try them by military commission. Since civilian courts claimed jurisdiction Stevens declared martial law in Pierce County on April 2, 1856.
On May 7, 1856 the Chief Justice of the Territory, Edward Lander, opened a session of the district court at Steilacoom but was arrested by the militia and taken to Olympia along with the records of the court. The next week the Judge issued orders of contempt to the Governor but he was again arrested and placed in confinement
Judge Francis A. Chenoweth, who had been ill, resumed the operation of his court on May 23, 1856 and issued writs demanding the release of the French Canadians who by this time were under the control of the territorial militia as well as the judge. The officer in charge of the French Canadians and the judge refused to give them up but allowed himself to be arrested for contempt of court.
Everyone was eventually released and the confrontation ended. One writer said of the event " ... Although much bitter controversy was engendered among the citizens of Washington Territory by this near civil war between the executive and judicial branches ... the following conclusion can be made... the governor has no discretion to declare martial law. (Cohn, p. 195).
37. I. B. Affleck and E. T. Gunn began their newspaper on May 19, 1855 with the motto "...Truth without Fear." The newspaper was Whig in orientation. The senior editor, Mr. Affleck, wrote in the initial issue that he "...has always been a Whig, has lived as a Whig, and by the blessing of God will die as a Whig." He wrote later that "...it has been said that there are not enough Whigs in this territory to serve as milestones..." which was probably true since the paper did not become popular and suspended operation the next year.
38. Mr. Light's trip to the east will not be noted as has been the local portion of his account. William Walker, an American citizen arrived in California in 1850. He "colonized" Lower California in 1853 and declared that portion of Mexico to be an independent republic. The next year he was forced to flee and in 1855 led another group of "emigrants" to Nicaragua where he seized control of the government for a time. He eventually lost control and after two additional attempts was captured by Honduran authorities and was executed in September of 1860. (Scroggs, p. 363).
39. The Panama Railroad was completed in January of 1855. The trip usually took about four hours to cross from Panama City to Aspinwall which was the American name for Colon. The Pacific Mail Steamship Company advertised a trip of twenty days from San Francisco to Panama. (Hoffman, p. 159.
Mr. Light recounts the usual rigors of a travel during the 1850s. Steamships often were sunk, damaged, had their boilers blow up and were often uncomfortable and unreliable. Being taken by hotel keepers and boarding house people was a usual fate of those who traveled.
40. The steamship Oregon, was built in New York in 1848 and arrived in San Francisco in the spring of 1849. She had three masts and was of 1,503 tons burden. She ran on the Panama route for several years and traveled to Puget Sound and British Columbia later. By 1869 her machinery had been removed and the ship continued to serve as a lumber carrier. She carried three hundred fifty passengers and is credited with being the first to bring mail from the United States to California. (Wright, p. 60).
41. Dr. David S. Maynard of Seattle took the same trip from Fort Vancouver in the fall of 1850. His diary speaks of those who took in travelers as "Here we were kindly received and treated as if old acquaintances..." and "We were received with that degree of brotherly kindness which seemed to rest our weary limbs and promise an asylum for us in our worn out pilgrimage." (Proschl, p. 1.) .
42. Monticello is "...now the city of Longview, Washington." (Miller, p. 200).
Chandler R. Huntington, a brother of Harry D. Huntington who founded Monticello in 1849, was the hotel keeping member of the family.(Miller, p. 201).
43. Van Ogle (p. 278) called Leschi "...cruel, cunning and treacherous and was at the bottom of all the devilment and murderous raids made...." David Longmire remembered Leschi as being "... a good neighbor......
44. Lieutenant August V. Kautz was assigned to Fort Steilacoom after the death of Lieutenant William A. Slaughter during the Indian War of 1855. The Kautz diary is one of the best accounts of life in Pierce County during the late 1850s. Unfortunately the diary before July 1,1857 was lost so that the comments Kautz made are available from that time only. Kautz (p. 144) wrote that the Territorial Secretary and many others of the group were very drunk and almost unmanageable.
The Kautz diary presents a point of view quite different from that of Mr. Light.
45. The Leschi affair caused a considerable stir throughout the territory. August Kautz, working with William F. Tolmie of the Hudson's Bay Company prepared a map showing the Leschi could not have been at the place where two men were killed for which crime he was eventually hanged. Sarah MacAllister Hartman, the daughter of an early Thurston County settler who was killed during the Indian war wrote many years later "...Leschi was hanged and the war ended...." which was probably how most of the settlers took his execution.
46. William P. Bonney, the Historian of Pierce County records that Charles Grainger, the executioner from Thurston County who did the actual hanging wrote, "... I felt that I was executing an innocent man .... and I believe it yet." (Bonney, I, p. 222).
4 7. Andrew and Preston Byrd built a sawmill in 1853 on the Andrew Byrd land claim on Chambers Creek. Water power to operate the mill was supplied by a dam built across the creek backing up water onto some low lying swamp land to form what is now Lake Steilacoom.(Athow, P. 9.).
The grist mill was built near the sawmill and was constructed of heavy timbers sawed at the mill. The building was four stories high and the power to move the grinding stones was supplied with water from the dam brought by a large wood flume to a water wheel outside the mill building.
48. Mr. Light did not mention his work in establishing the Steilacoom Library Association. He served as an officer for several years and is credited with making a trip to San Francisco where he bought several hundred books for the library. "First Library in Washington," Steilacoom Historical Museum Quarterly, V (Summer, 1976), p. 5.
49. James W. Watt, who worked in the Salmon River area in the early 1860s remembered the winter of 1861-1862 as "...one of the worst winters ever experienced in this country...... and "... many careless and improvident miners perished." (Watt, p. 285).
Watt indicated that there were about 2,500 miners actually working claims in the area Mr. Light visited. There were thousands of others digging ditches, cutting lumber, clearing off claims, etc. Watt claimed that for a period his wife's uncle, John Monroe, dug two thousand dollars in gold dust per day from his claim.
50. The telegraph reached Olympia on September 4, 1864. The line ran to Steilacoom as described by Mr. Light and then followed the Military Road to Puyallup where it crossed the river near present Meridian Street. The line then crossed over the hill close to Five Mile Lake and down into the White River Valley and on to Seattle where service was established on October 26,1864. (Bryan, p. 3).
51. Threats of shifting the seat of government from Olympia were common during the early period . It was usually done as an "object lesson" for the Olympians who didn't "play along" with the territorial officials. Gordon Newell describes an attempt to move the capital to Vancouver in 1860 (Newell, p. 39).
52. Mr. Light sued Mr. Pincus and Mr. Packscher in 1874 which probably ended the partnership.(Bonney, p. 928).
55. Tucker resigned as sheriff on February 2, 1863. This would have been after the U.S. Army had withdrawn to fight the Civil War. Later the California Militia came to guard the territory and they were later replaced by the Washington Volunteers.(Bonney, p. 310).
54. The Clara Light was a schooner built in Steilacoom for Captain S. C. Mitchell in 1869 (Lewis and Dryden p. 178). She ran from Puget Sound to San Francisco for several years and later hauled lumber from Coos Bay Oregon.
53. Pinkus, Packshar and Light purchased the Byrd Mill property for $3,000 cash. (Athow, p. 19).
56. The Fourth Infantry garrisoned Fort Steilacoom in the mid-1850s. They were joined by elements of the Ninth Infantry during the Indian War of 1855. The Fort continued throughout the Civil War finally being closed in 1868 when the property was turned over to the Territory of Washington for an Insane Asylum.
57. Mr. J. M. Bates was "...regarded as a half-wit...." and had lost a cow and was told that Mr. Byrd had stolen it and that the cow's head was on display at the Byrd slaughterhouse near the Byrd Mill. When confronted by Bates, Mr. Byrd assured him that he had never seen the cow much less killed it.(Athow, p. 15).
58. Mr. Light was paid fifty dollars on May 3, 1859 for being a member of the jail building committee along with Samuel McCaw.
59. Stephen Judson, the sheriff, was soon overpowered and "...forcibly borne away by bystanders." (Athow, p. 17). Later Judson reinforced the jail by laying spiked two by twelve inch fir planks as an inner wall and floor.
60. The officers at Fort Steilacoom looked upon themselves as guardian of the public good and would have assisted the sheriff in resisting the vigilante group.
61. The barn was one owned by Henry Murray.
62. Leland Athow, a Byrd descendant, reports that someone, an enemy of the Byrd family, encouraged Bates and that the entire Byrd family knew who the man was:
The man who advised and encouraged Bates to commit the dastardly crime lived to an extreme old age, and despite the fact that he gained a place of considerable prominence during his declining years, he was often found in court and had lots of enemies even to his dying day." (Athow, p. 19).
63. Some records indicate that the name of the man was Charles McDaniel.
64. The number of men involved varies from account to account. William P. Bonney in the Tacoma Times of October 26,1929 indicated that there were twenty-seven men. Thomas Chambers in the Tacoma Ledger of November 27,1916 wrote that there were seventeen.
65. The three roads out of town went to Fort Nisqually and Olympia; to Fort Steilacoom; and to Gravelly Lake (Old Military Road.).
66. Thomas M. Chambers recalled in 1916 that a priest did arrive and that "...a young man coolly walked up to within five feet of the dying man and .... aiming his heavy army pistol full at Gibson's head, pulled the trigger."
67. The Tacoma Ledger was founded by Randolph Radebaugh who later founded the Tacoma Tribune. Mr. Radebaugh was interested in local history and found space in his newspapers for interviews and accounts of the early years of settlement in the Northwest.
68. Fort Chehalis was established February 11, 1860 near the mouth of the Chehalis River by Captain Maurice Maloney who had previously been at Fort Steilacoom. He was joined by Lieut. August V. Kautz who had also served in Steilacoom. The fort was abandoned in June of 1860 as the U.S. Army withdrew and after a short reoccupation was finally abandoned by the end of the year. (Fraser, p. 172).
A pivotal character in the account of Erastus Light was Leschi, a subchief of the Nisqually Indians. In the eyes of Mr. Light he was a foe who was responsible for all the misery of the Indian War of 1855. Others who knew him thought differently. Ezra Meeker, the early Puyallup Valley settler wrote
Leschi was an able man for any race; mild in his manner true to his convictions; resolute in whatever he undertook, yet not of that savage nature so common to his race. He was born to command. His very features stamped him as one greater than his kind.
This man fought for a principle--fought obstinately and bravely; had inflicted great loss upon his foes, and had been overpowered and was a prisoner of war. Public sentiment demanded revenge. Leschi was branded a murderer. ("The Hanging of Leschi," The Weekly Ledger, May 27, 1892).
I never knew of his doing anything of a character that 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 States.
Edward Huggins. The Hudson's Bay Company.
Athow, Leland J. Brief History of the Adam Byrd Branch of the Byrd Family. Tacoma, Washington, 1953.
Bryan, Mrs. Arthur. History of the Telegraph in Tacoma. n.p.
Bonney, William P. History of Pierce County, Washington.
Cohn, Samuel F. "Martial Law in Washington Territory" Pacific Northwest Quarterly, XXVI (1936), p. 195-218.
Colby, Elbridge. "Battle of Shiloh," Dictionary of American History. New York: Scribners, 1976, VI, 278.
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