PIONEER REMINISCENCES OF URBAN E. HICKS
Note from 53rd Report of the Annual Reunion of the Oregon Pioneer Association
List of the Pioneer Company of the Washington Territorial Volunteers
A note on the Pioneer Company written by Urban East Hicks
A note about the 1854 Legislature and the death of John N. McConaha written by Urban E. Hicks
Part One - Crossing the Plains in 1851 as published in the Tacoma Ledger May 15, 1892.
Part Two - A Trip to Shoalwater Bay in 1853 as published in the Tacoma Ledger June 26, 1892. (A slightly different version of an account of this trip was published in the Washington Historian, January, 1901 pgs. 78-83)
Part Three - The Indian War of 1855.
Part Four - Excerpts from the Urban E. Hicks account of the Indian War of 1855 as published by George Himes in 1886.
Part Five - Mining in the 1850s. Published in the Tacoma Ledger May 19, 1893.
Part Six - A letter to the Editor of the Tacoma Ledger written by "Old Settler" dated August 4, 1892 and a response from Urban E. Hicks dated August 21, 1892.
A response to an article written in the Tacoma Ledger by Judge James Wickersham published November 14, 1897 by Urban E. Hicks in which Hicks accuses Wickersham of "...openly attacks the honor and reputation of white men long dead, which seems to me should not go unanswered."
These recollections of Urban East Hicks with supporting documents were first published during a contest sponsored by the Tacoma Ledger in 1892 and 1893 when Editor Clinton Snowden offered a trip to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair to the writer of the best account of life and times in the Pacific Northwest before the coming of the Railroad.
Mr. Hicks was a pioneer in a number of places in Washington and Oregon and was prominent in civil, government and military affairs. He served during the Indian war of 1855 as an officer in the Pioneer Company of the Washington Territorial Volunteers and was Territorial Assessor, Territorial Quartermaster General and Territorial Librarian.
While working and living in Oregon in 1886 Mr. Hicks wrote Personal Recollections of Captain U. E. Hicks. Scenes, incidents, dangers and hardships endured during the Yakima and Clickitat Indian War, 1855-1856, from which Hicks drew much of the information printed in his account of the Indian War of 1855 published in the Ledger series.
It should also be noted that Phoebe Goodell Judson, in her book, A Pioneer's Search for an Ideal Home tells of the Indian War of 1855-56 using much of the same language in telling the story as did Hicks and often quoted directly from the Hicks account. Hicks lived a long life and several versions of his accounts were published in the Tacoma, Seattle, and San Juan Island newspapers as the years passed.
Part Four of this collection of the writings of Urban E. Hicks is taken from the later portion of the published Hicks account of the War which he entitled "Scenes and Incidents." These "Scenes and Incidents" have generally been discussed in the published account but are included for the extra information they give.
The comments of "Old Settler" published in part six of this work are especially interesting. Hicks' response demonstrates a possible knowledge of the identity of "Old Settler" but does not go "...on the attack" except to mention that "Old Settler" seemed to be more closely acquainted with the officers of the law than most citizens of the time.
"Old Settler" was incorrect in announcing that A. Benton Moses had nothing to do with the Indian War since Moses was killed as Hicks described and it was for the "murder" of Moses that Leschi was eventually hanged.
In writing reminiscences Hicks himself recorded: "I have endeavored to confine these reminiscences, as much as possible to matters in which I took part, and to state facts only from the stand point in which I then viewed them, or believed them to exist.
That others of my comrades in these trying times may have different recollections and different views I do not doubt, for no two perhaps, had the same experience.
In looking over the field at this distant day (written in 1886) and viewing the wonderful changes that have been wrought out in one short life-time...I am often lost in wonder, and the scenes I have above mentioned seem but as a dream."
Edward Huggins, the last factor of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Nisqually, wrote an account of the killing of the Indian at Fort Nisqually by James A. Lake and gives the story from an entirely different viewpoint.
Another soldier in the Indian War of 1855 was a member of the J. H. Van Bokkelen Company of Volunteers and published his account of the battle described by Hicks being one of the group of "...forty or more of our boys..." mentioned on page thirty six of the Hicks account.
The trip to Shoalwater bay in 1853 was told in a slightly different format in an article entitled "Taking the Census in 1853," written by Hicks and published in the Washington Historian II (January, 1901) ppgs. 78-83.
Writing of the confrontation with the Quinault Indians over the possession of a keg of whisky as recounted on page eighteen of this work, Hicks in the Washington Historian wrote:
There was nothing left for me to do but start a fire, cook my cup of tea and eat my little supper the best I could. Pretty soon four or five of the band came up to me...The leader was a fine looking, intelligent fellow, well dressed for an Indian, had long, very black hair and a large hooked nose, his countenance resembling very much that of a Jew and I verily believe, to this day, that he was from one of the lost tribes of that race.
he was the only one that could speak the Chinook or jargon lingo, and that not very well. of course he wanted some of the whisky, but I told him it was not mine to sell or give away.
Hicks then describes the efforts taken by the Quinaults to get whisky and his own and those of his Indian guides to retain the keg as well as their lives.
The Washington State Historical Society in Tacoma has a collection of the Urban E. Hicks papers which includes a number of documents appointing Hicks to a variety of official positions. In addition there are a number of newspaper clippings and a handwritten account of Hicks crossing the plains in the 1850s.
Gary Fuller Reese June 21, 1984
URBAN EAST HICKS
Urban East Hicks--Born in Boone, County, Missouri, May 14, 1828; served five years' apprenticeship at the printers trade in Paris, Monroe County, and at Hannibal, on the Mississippi river. Married Miss Eliza Jane Leedom, in 1850 in Schuyler County; went to St. Louis and in the spring of 1851 set out for Oregon, overland. Settled at the mouth of the Cowlitz river; taught school and in 1852 came to Portland; worked a short time at his trade; located on a claim three miles east of East Portland; moved to Salt Creek, Polk County, and from there to Puget Sound in 1853 where his wife died leaving one son, Dr. Frank P. Hicks.
Married to Miss India Ann Hartsock in 1855 by whom he has one son living, G. Gwin Hicks. Took part in the Indian war of 1855-56, going first as a lieutenant, and afterwards was promoted to Captain; was assessor and county clerk of Thurston County, and assistant secretary of the first Territorial Court of Washington Territory.
Was at different times elected by the legislature Territorial Librarian, Territorial Auditor, and Quartermaster General; was also deputy United States Marshal, Notary Public, etc.
Mr. Hicks has had a varied experience in the newspaper business. In 1861-62 he published the Vancouver Telegraph in 1864-65 he published the Washington Democrat, at Olympia; moved his plant to Salem, Oregon in 1865-66 and in connection with A. Noltner and C. B. Bellinger published the Democratic Review; went to Portland and was city editor of the Daily Oregon Herald; started the East Portland Democratic Era, in 1871 and in 1874 was engaged as editor of the Vancouver register.
In the fall of 1874 he went to California and returned in 1877 where he worked for Himes the Printer in Portland. His later years were spent "...trying to farm and garden with indifferent success...eyesight preventing me from pursuing my boyhood trade..." At this time he was living at East Sound on Orcas Island.
He later moved to the Soldiers Home and Colony in Orting, Washington where he died from injuries suffered in a fall from a railroad car.
NOTE ON URBAN EAST HICKS IN THE REPORT OF THE 53RD ANNUAL REUNION OF THE OREGON PIONEER ASSOCIATION
In the Spring of 1851 he joined his stepfather, Stephen Duley Ruddell and crossed the plains to Oregon; spent the winter on the Catlin place, near Kelso of the present day; taught school there, the second school in Cowlitz county, Washington, the first teacher being F. D. Huntress. He went to Portland in 1852, worked on the Oregonian awhile and taught a school on the northern slope of Mt. Tabor, now within the city limits of Portland.
After spending a few months in Polk County, he went to Olympia, Thurston County, Washington, and took a claim in Chamber's Prairie, joining the Ruddell place on the south. There his wife died, leaving one son, now a dentist in Tacoma. On January 21, 1855, Mr. Hicks married Miss India Ann Hartsock, a daughter of Gallatin Hartsock, the nearest neighbor of the Ruddell family on the north who bore him three children.
Mr. Hicks was an Indian War veteran, having been first lieutenant and Captain of the Pioneer Company in the Yakima Indian War of 1855-56. Then he taught two terms of school of three months each in the fall of 1856 and winter and spring of 1857, Mrs. Catherine Balch, Mrs. William H. Ruddell and George H. Himes being among his pupils.
After that he held numerous official positions in the territorial government at Olympia. He was a resident of Portland from 1866 to 1886, working as a journeyman printer most of the time. Fifteen years of that time he was employed by George H. Himes. Then he went to East Sound, Orcas Island, and lived on a ranch owned by his son, Frank.
A number of years later increasing age caused him to become an inmate of the Soldier's Home at Orting where he died as a result of accidentally losing his footing while leaving a railroad car. Mrs. Hicks died May 2, 1923, aged ninety-two years.
OREGON PIONEER ASSOCIATION. TRANSACTIONS of the Fifty-Second Annual Reunion ... Portland, June 19, 1923 .... Portland, F. W. Baltes and Company, Printers, 1927.
CAPT. URBAN E. HICKS PIONEER COMPANY, WASHINGTON TERRITORIAL MOUNTED VOLUNTEERS.
Served one hundred seventy five days from February 8, 1856 to August 1, 1856.
Joseph A. White, Captain.
Urban E. Hicks
Benjamin F. Lewis
T. McLean chambers
John D. Press
Henry G. Parsons
George W. Downey
Milton P. Clute
James A. Lake
Wm- H. Ruddle
Bell, James H.
Fossett, Thomas N.
Smith, James R.
Larmond, George H.
Tykle, George A.
Whitting, Benj. H.
Washington (State) Military Department. Official History of the Washington National Guard. Washington Territorial Militia in the Indian Wars of 1855-56.
A NOTE ABOUT THE PIONEER COMPANY
The Pioneer Company was organized or recruited by Joseph White, of Thurston County; forty-seven men all told. White commanded the company until after the battle on Connell's Prairie, March 10, 1856, when he resigned and U.E. Hicks, first lieutenant, was commissioned captain of the company. We opened and repaired about sixty miles of road, and built nine blockhouses and other structures for occupancy during the war.
Near the close of hostilities the company was partly mounted by the Government and put upon scout duty along the foothills of the Cascades and the outskirts of settlements on White, Puyallup, Nisqually and Skookumchuck Rivers, the last fort or blockhouse being built on the Tenalcut Plains.
The company was enlisted principally from Steilacoom and Olympia, or in Pierce and Thurston Counties. Being a company of sappers and miners they were promised extra pay, but were not so paid, only receiving the pay allowed to other companies.
Many of the men were more in debt to the government for clothing, blankets, and so forth, than their pay amounted to, owing to the rough, hard work they had to do, which wore out the rotten stuff furnished at three to five times above actual cost.
The Pioneer Company was the only company that suffered from loss by wounds or death in fights with Indians this side of the mountain, north of the Columbia River, except the company commanded by Lieutenant William A. Slaughter, who was killed, and the company commanded by C.C. Hewitt.
U. E. Hicks. Eastsound Washington. December 3, 1899. Washington Historian, I (April, 1900), p. 133
A NOTE ABOUT THE 1854 LEGISLATURE
DEATH OF JOHN N. MCCONAHA
At the first session of the Territorial Legislature, 1854, F. A. Chenoweth as chosen speaker of the house, B.F. Kendall, chief clerk and David Phillips, assistant clerk. The Honor John N. McConaha, a lawyer of Seattle was elected President of the Council, Elwood Evans, chief secretary and U.E. Hicks, assistant secretary.
An elderly gentleman named Frost, from Mukilteo, was first chosen secretary of Council, but owing to bad eyesight was compelled to resign, and Evans was chosen in his place. Evans and I served together during the term, and by joint resolution at the close of the session were selected to index, syllabus, codify and prepare copy for printers, which gave us about three weeks further employ.
Evans being well versed in law, corrected and arranged the first code of laws for the Territory, which received high compliments from the bar generally. Being a printer, I suppose, was the reason why I was selected to assist Evans in the work. From that day until the day of his death he and I were warm friends, although differing in politics.
Judge Chenoweth made an excellent presiding officer in the house. John N. McConaha had recently come to the Sound from California, and was an unusually bright man, and able lawyer and fine orator.
Immediately after the session closed he started for home, accompanied by a sea captain. The old steamer Eliza Anderson was the only boat running on the Sound, making weekly trips to Port Townsend and Victoria from Olympia. She had left Olympia the day before and would not probably be back for a week. McConaha could not wait so long, but employed four Indians and a large canoe and invited the sea captain to accompany him home to Seattle.
The weather was stormy and friends advised them not to attempt the trip. The Indians protested for a time, but McConaha was determined to make the attempt and offered the Indians extra pay for the hazard. They reached Elliott Bay and camped for a short time on the opposite shore from Seattle, but in attempting to cross over, their canoe was upset and the two white men and two Indians were lost.
The remaining two Indians held on to the canoe until it drifted on the north end of Vashon Island or the small island in front, from which they were finally rescued. None of the bodies were ever found. McConaha had with him about four hundred dollars of his salary and it was said that the Captain had a large amount of money on his person.
The loss of McConaha was greatly deplored by everyone in the Territory at the time and was a sad misfortune to his family and many friends in Seattle. John N. McConaha was president of the first Democratic convention held in the territory and U. E. Hicks was secretary. That convention nominated Columbia Lancaster of Clark County, who was elected the first delegate to Congress from Washington territory.
Urban E. Hicks. East Sound, Washington February 28, 1900.
Letter to Col. William F. Prosser, President, Washington State Historical Society. Washington Historian, I (April, 1900) p. 133-34.
PART ONE--CROSSING THE PLAINS
Urban East Hicks, "Crossing the Plains," Tacoma Sunday Ledger May 15, 1892.
The writer was born in Boone county, Missouri, May 14, 1828. Was apprenticed to the printer's trade in Paris, Monroe county, and finished his apprenticeship in Hannibal on the Mississippi river. At the age of twenty two, married Miss Eliza Jan Leedom, near Lancaster, Schuyler county, went to St. Louis and in the Spring of 1851, in company with his young wife and parents, emigrated across the plains to Oregon.
Owing to sickness, high water and other unfortunate circumstances the train was very late in crossing, time just six months from the day of starting till the final stop for winter at the mouth of the Cowlitz river, where a small settlement of American residents had been established a year or two previous.
There were twenty-one wagons in the train and sixty-two persons all told, twenty-one men and boys able to bear arms, the remainder women and children. Two children were born on the way. Robert Cochrane now residing at Eugene City, Oregon, was captain of the train. Colonel Walter Crockett and family who settled on Whidbey island, and Colonel Isaac N. Ebey's wife and two boys were of the train.
Colonel Ebey met us away up on Boise river, and the Cochrane family were met this side of Boise by relatives from the Willamette, who had emigrated the year previous. The train was made up of about one half from Missouri, and the other half from Illinois.
We crossed the Missouri river at Kanesville or Council Bluffs, and rose up on the plain near where Omaha now stands. There was one large, rough-board warehouse on the hill used as a supply and trading post for the Indians, after passing which we saw no more white settlers or even traders until we reached Fort Laramie.
We came up on the north side of the Platte and passed Independence Rock August 4th. By this it will be known by all old emigrants that we were at least one month behind the usual time. On the Platte river, below Fort Laramie, we passed through the buffalo country, and I do not exaggerate when I state that we frequently saw, at one sight, as many as 50,000 buffalo.
On more than one occasion we were greatly alarmed through fear of being overrun by these immense herds in a stampede, and had to wave sheets, blankets, fire guns and make all the noise we could to turn their course.
The Pawnee and Sioux Indian hunters were herding them in the Platte valley for their winter meat. Of course quite a number were killed by our train and we were kept well supplied with fresh meat from antelope and buffalo until we crossed the Rocky mountains through South Pass, but from there on we saw no more game other than jack rabbits and an occasional sage hen.
The first night out from the Missouri river we camped on a small stream known as Omaha creek. We should have crossed the stream before camping for during the night a sudden storm filled the valley from bluff to bluff with a swift stream of water, which delayed us two days before we could cross when we came to it.
We always afterward crossed a stream before camping, if possible. Seventeen head of cattle were stolen that night during the storm by the Indians, two killed and one or two wounded with arrows. We retook our stock from the Indian village, some five miles below us without having to fire a gun, but this taught us to be constantly on guard and trust nothing to professions of friendship by any Indian.
On arrival at Fort Hall we were warned by a few traders that danger was ahead of us. A band of marauding Snake Indians, led by a renegade white man, or Canadian trapper, were waylaying the emigrants along down Snake river and had killed nearly thirty between there and Fort Boise.
One afternoon about three o'clock after passing the great American falls, we camped rather earlier than usual, as on our trail rose the bluff on to the high plains and we were doubtful about finding water for a long distance. Soon after unhitching we were suddenly attacked by a small band of Indians who first attempted to steal or capture our horses.
Failing in this, they made a furious assault upon our wagons, which had been rounded into an oval or corral shape, the stock always picketed during the night, after a few hours feeding in the center of the corral.
While a few men charged the Indians, others, including the women and children rounded up the stock, drove them rapidly into the corral, and in a few minutes the train was in motion to higher and safer ground.
The Indians kept up a desultory fire at long range until dark, our train having gained the upland and stopped among the high sagebrush of the plains. We did not get quite far enough away from he bluff, and at daylight the next morning the Indians, being reinforced, again attacked us from under the edge of the bluff. We moved out as soon as possible into the road, putting a few men in the advance and others in the rear, and drove as rapidly as our teams could travel.
The Indians followed us several miles, but finally gave up the chase. Many bullets pierced the wagon covers, boxes, spokes, etc, and one or two of our stock was hit, but fortunately no one was wounded, although John Crockett came near being seriously wounded, his powderhorn saving his life, perhaps by turning the course of a center shot.
For several days afterward and in fact until we crossed Snake river at what was known as the upper crossing, we came upon many new made graves and in several instances the bodies had been exhumed either by Indians or wolves and stripped of all their clothing. One woman, two small children and several men and boys who had evidently been hurriedly buried in shallow holes, were thus found and reburied by us. The flesh upon the bodies had decayed but little, the light dry atmosphere of these plains simply drying the flesh of men and animals as if it had been placed in a dry-house.
We lost a horse or two on the Umatilla river, stolen by the Walla or Umatilla Indians who followed us for several days on the watch, or for begging purposes. It was the boast of the Sioux Indians, as we came through their country, that they had never shed white man's blood, as, indeed, it was a fact at that time, but they afterward became one of the most bitter and relentless foes of all the tribes on the plains against he whites.
The Pawnees gave us some annoyance in either begging or stealing, but they did not attack us. They had, however, surrounded a train of seventeen wagons on what was then known as Beaver creek, about two hundred miles west of the Missouri river, had stampeded all their stock and were fast consuming their supplies of flour, sugar, powder, etc, the poor emigrants being too cowardly or too much demoralized to resist their demands for anything the Indians wanted.
There were more women in this train than men, and none of them ever having met an Indian before, they were easily frightened into any gift the savages wanted, and had we not accidentally come upon them in time they would no doubt have all perished either by the tomahawk or starvation.
We assisted them to recover a part of their teams and learned afterward that they finally got back to the Missouri river in a deplorable condition, having lost nearly everything but their scalps. Whatever became of them afterwards I cannot say. We stayed with them two days, helping to hunt their cattle, but as we were very late and a long journey ahead of us we were compelled to leave them to work out their own safety, after finding and driving into their corral about half of their lost stock.
One young lady followed us on foot for several miles trying to overtake us, we having left, without her knowing it, some hours before, with the hope of coming to Oregon with us. Had we known it before she was overtaken by her demoralized friends she would have been taken in and brought safely through.
Our train divided after crossing the Blue mountains, the major part taking the Oregon trail over the Barlow pass to the Willamette valley and the rest coming on down to The Dalles. My stepfather, Stephen Dooly Ruddell, and myself and wife came down the Columbia in company with the Crocketts and Ebey, bound for Puget Sound.
A large flatboat was bought at The Dalles and the women and children together with our wagons, chains, yokes and what little clothing, bedding, food, etc. we had was crowded into it and the older men of the party took command and sailed away down the majestic Columbia to the upper Cascades, while the young members drove the cattle and horses over the trail across the mountains, passing just north of Mount Hood and crossing the Columbia above the upper portage at Wind mountain, and thence down on the north side of the river to the Cowlitz.
Everything was unloaded from the boat at the Cascades and the wagons were set up, teams attached and all the chattels hauled from the upper to the lower portage over one of the roughest roads that was ever passed by wagons and the boat plunged the rapids under the guidance of John Crockett and S. D. Ruddell.
At the lower portage everything was again loaded into the boat and the journey continued until the Cowlitz was reached. Here my family remained during the winter, while the Crocketts and Ebey pushed on to the Sound country.
The writer was employed by the few settlers at Monticello to teach a three month's school. Before the time was up my parents left in the early spring for Olympia and settled on Chambers' prairie about five miles east of that burgh. When school was out I went to Portland and was employed by Waterman and Carter on the Oregon Times, the second newspaper started in Portland, the Oregonian having been started by T.J. Dryer a few months previous. Portland then had a population of less than five hundred and both papers were issued weekly only. Two or three compositors set up all the type on each papers. A few fonts of type were used in each office for plain poster and job work, all the work being done on a hand press.
In May, 1853, I came to Olympia, my dear wife being taken down with the consumption, and I took her to my mother's house where she lingered until fall, when she left me and her little baby boy, just past one year old. My mother also died the year following as have also three sisters with the same dreadful disease. My stepfather, S. D. Ruddell, lived until last fall, when he, too, passed away. I have two sons living in Tacoma, Dr. F. P. Hicks and G. Gwin Hicks.
But few are left of those who survived danger, endured the toil and hardships of the "plains across" in those early pioneer days to help found new homes on the far off coast, and when I look back over the history of those times I am forced to exclaim: "How foolish it was for men with families, who had good homes in the then almost wilderness of the Mississippi and Missouri river valleys to sacrifice all comfort, safety and prospective wealth for so long a journey to a far off land, but little known and wholly outside of all possible protection against foreign and savage foes."
My stepfather was a well-to-do farmer in a rich and rapidly improving country on the border line between Missouri and Iowa and had he remained, would no doubt have left a much larger legacy to his children and heirs. But such was the spirit of adventure among the then western or frontiersman that they could not withstand the temptation to still "go west."
I, myself, have got as far west and north as it is possible to go without jumping off into foreign or British soil, being now on Orcas Island in the Archipelago de Haro.
Urban East Hicks, "A Trip to Shoalwater"
In September 1853, I was appointed assessor for Thurston County. The territory then embraced by that county included all of what is now known as Mason and Chehalis counties, including Shoalwater bay as far south as Stony point.
J. Patton Anderson had been appointed United States marshal and sent to the coast ahead of Governor Stevens and party to take a census of the inhabitants of the territory north of the Columbia river and west of the Cascade range, there were no white settlers east of the mountains at that time, preparatory to the formation of a separate territory from that of Oregon, all of said territory being then included in Oregon territory and had completed the census of the territory north of Thurston County.
He came to Olympia and desired to go down the Chehalis to Grays harbor and from thence along the sea beach to Shoalwater by and the mouth of the Columbia.
As no one at Olympia knew anything positive about the number or business of the white inhabitants on the lower Chehalis and Shoalwater, the county commissioners--Sidney S. Ford and David Shelton, the latter still living and for whom the town of Shelton is named--instructed me to accompany the marshal on this lonely trip and report the number and assessable property of the inhabitants, if we found any.
I think that no taxes were collected from them until long afterward, but the commissioners desired to know officially the character and occupation of all that might be found in that direction. I was the first official to visit that section, and although people are not usually well pleased to receive a visit from the assessor, I was, however, smilingly received and royally welcomed by all.
We went out to the James' place on Mound prairie on the north bank of the Chehalis, and then engaged two Indians with a small canoe, just big enough to hold four persons with our blankets, fry pan, tin pot, cup and a few small articles, small sack of flour, a few pounds of bacon, a few raw potatoes, a package of ground coffee and a little salt. With this outfit we started our frail barque on the shallow rapids of the winding stream, each with paddle and pole as propelling power.
The farthest settlement down stream was then known as Armstrong's saw-mill. From there on all was a wild wilderness of dense undergrowth lining both sides of the stream until we reached two bachelor shanties one on the right, and the other on the left bank, near the present town site of Montesano. Dan Scammon and Porter had recently lodged on the bank near an open space a short distance back from the shore and were endeavoring to hew out a trail onto higher ground.
We encountered two immense drifts of logs and fallen timber in the stream before getting to Scammon's one of which we carried our canoe around, but the other being nearly one mile in length we were forced to leave the canoe and pack our traps around where the Indians, after more than a half day's delay procured another canoe, no better than the first, when we again paddled onward.
We traveled leisurely down stream, frequently stopping and going ashore to climb some prominent elevation to view the country, if possible. We used a hatchet to cut our way through the dense undergrowth and blaze the way back to the canoe.
We found no more white settlers until we passed the small island at the upper end of the harbor, when we came upon a log house with a small out-building on a high bank just above the mouth of a good-sized stream and quite an extensive tide flat. Here we found Dr. Roundtree and family with an old bachelor living nearer the mouth of the stream. The doctor seemed delighted to see us, as he had not seen or heard from any one up the Chehalis for many weeks. No other settlers were on the way, and his nearest neighbor, except the "bach" was on Shoalwater bay, more than twenty miles away. The doctor had frozen his feet the winter previous so he said, and wore rags around them to shield them from thorns and sharp rock, but we suspected that shoe leather was scarce in those days.
He would not listen to our going further that day and prevailed on us stop over night. (I would not mention this but for what follows). That night two very hungry dogs got at our sack of provisions and ate up every morsel even the raw potatoes. In the morning we started again on our trip, minus all our supplies, which the doctor could not replenish from his scanty larder but before embarking I politely asked the doctor our bill for the night's entertainment.
He fixed the sum, of two dollars each, which he regarded as quite reasonable owing to scarcity of supplies and the long distance to market (There are no clams on the bay). I handed him a five dollar piece which he quickly dropped into his pocket and looked for more, but finally said that it would do; he had included the Indians also in the bill, which would have come to six dollars but generously took off one dollar as we had been such entertaining company.
On arriving at the Point our Indian guides took us along the sand to the beach and we then proceeded on foot along the wide beach, one of the most beautiful on any shore, fifteen miles to Shoalwater. On the 1st day we came across a large party of Quenoith Indians (I spell the name as pronounced), gathering kinnikapick berries which grew in great abundance on the sand ridges near the beach, from whom we purchased a small quantity of very dirty rice and a piece of sturgeon. The Indians caught the fish in the surf.
We reached the north shore of Shoalwater just at dark, foot sore and weary with our long walk over the hard beaten sands and through a long stretch of drifting sand more than ankle deep. We soon found a large pile of drift logs which we set on fire and proceeded to cook the last morsel of our purchase from the Indians.
The bay opposite was six miles wide, and the settlement all on the opposite side. Morning came and we watched the numerous canoes and small sailing craft going and coming from the oyster grounds on the other side, but none toward us. We hoisted a white blanket on a long pole and piled on sticks and logs to make as much smoke as possible, but no one seemed to notice it.
All day long we lay there without anything to eat, and our Indians had to go more than a mile back from the bay to find fresh water which they brought to us in a pint cup and frying pan. We couldn't go back, as the Indians from whom we had made our small purchase were perhaps gone from there and showed an ugly disposition even while trading with us. There was no game except a few black ducks away out in the bay.
I had a navy Colt, Anderson had no arms. Even if we shot a duck there was no way of getting it so far out in the water. Night came on and we laid down with a distressing emptiness of stomach. Our Indians could stand hunger better than we could, and they had been lucky enough to catch a good sized crab, which they stole off and cooked at another fire built some distance from us.
I had fired my pistol a good many times until ammunition was running out, and we had resorted to every possible means to attract the attention of those on the other shore, until we began to discuss the probable merits of Indian roast or broiled, but we had nothing on which to broil the Indian, and hence would have to depend on roast or raw.
Sunday came bright, calm and peaceful and along toward noon I had succeeded in wounding a black duck in a shoal place, and by desperate running through water knee deep, captured it. We immediately plucked a few feathers, divided it in half, and each stuck his share on a long stick into the fire to scorch and removed a little of the raw fishy taste. A small sloop had been sailing around the bay for some hours previous, but seemed to purposely avoid our locality.
Just as we were about to devour our roast duck, we noticed the boat heading for us, and we both shouted and jumped on logs, and ran out into the water, waved hats, and acted like crazy men, I know. we would bite off a piece of duck, and yell at the same time.
Soon the welcome boat came near enough to speak to us, and when discovered that we were white men, the two men aboard came ashore and assisted us on board with all speed. On board we found a few crackers and some cheese, and I have never tasted anything better or sweeter in all my travels.
They soon landed us on the other side and when our condition was made known every luxury the settlement possessed was freely bestowed and many apologies offered for not paying closer attention to our signals. They thought it was a band of Quinoith Indians, who were regarded as semi-hostile, especially toward the Chinook and Shoalwater tribes, who were engaged by the whites in gathering oysters.
About twenty-five white persons were residents of Shoalwater bay and vicinity at that time, most of them engaged in gathering the native oyster for the San Francisco market. Dick Hillyar and Job Bullard were the men who rescued us on the north barren shore near the ocean. The whites employed sorties of two or three hundred Indians, mostly from the Chinook tribe near the mouth of the Columbia to gather the oysters, and liberally paid them in whisky and tobacco.
Oyster beach was thickly populated with a roaring, rollicking crowd of drunken men and squaws, everything apparently being held in common among whites and Indians.
After feasting on oysters stewed, oysters fried, raw, roasted, fricasseed, broiled, baked, on the half-shell, whole shell and all with copious draughts of salt-water whisky we took an enumeration of the inhabitants but found no assessable property not exempt by law or courtesy.
Here-Colonel Anderson left me to proceed on to the Columbia, while I had to make the return trip alone with my two Indians. On the morning of departure I engaged a big Chinook chief to set me across the bay on barren beach at Starvation camp, he possessed two beautifully fat, large, greasy squaws as wives, and a very large Chinook canoe, which he generously loaded with a crowd of drunken braves as escort and guard. He also owned a slave who did the steering, and whom he did not allow to touch whisky when he took a sail on the bay.
We came near upsetting in the bay in a sudden squall of wind, but drawing my butcher knife and cutting the sail-rope just in time saved us from overturning. The chief became very indignant toward me for cutting the rope, and I was compelled to knock or push him down into the bottom of the canoe and draw my revolver with a threat to shoot the first one that stirred. The steersman being sober, we made our landing safe.
My two Indians were also very drunk, but by dipping water from the bay with my frying pan and liberally dousing them, they soon sobered sufficient to stand up and receive my pack on their backs, together with a two and one half gallon keg of whisky they had secured from the Indians on the bay. I allowed them to pack the whisky as I was entirely dependent on them to get back home, but did not allow them to drink any on the way, as indeed, they seemed to have sense enough not to do themselves.
I got behind and drove them ahead on the trail. Near sundown, on our way up the beach, we again came suddenly upon the Quenoith savages who were still gathering the Indian tobacco weed and berries. We would have avoided them had we not come upon them unawares, but to pass unobserved was now impossible, so we assumed a bold front and marched steadily and straight through their camp. They, however, smelt the whisky and followed after us.
After coming about a mile this side of their camp my two Indians stopped, laid down their packs and disappeared over the sand ridges leaving me alone. Some of the Quenoith savages came up and demanded some of the whiskey. I told them it was not mine to give, but they disbelieved me. One brave with a long blanket around his shoulders attempted to steal the keg by sitting on it and on rising, lift it beneath the blanket.
I rushed at him and threw him off the keg, and drew my revolver and told them I would die rather than let them have any of the whisky. Then my only course was to appear as calm as possible, keep a very close watch on them, and let them know that they would have to scalp me before getting the liquor.
They offered to trade anything and everything they could to possess the keg, but I knew that if they were to taste it, it was certain to end in a very lively foot-race. They sulked for a time but they went back to their camp, I thought for reinforcements.
They had but just gone out of sight when my two Indians came running to me, it was then getting dark and a shower of rain began to fall. They motioned to me not to speak or make any noise. They quickly gathered up everything and touching me on the arm to follow them they took out on a sharp trot over the sand ridges, through the lagoons, low brush and tall grass, in a zigzag course, some quarter or half mile from the beach.
We kept up the run as long as I was able to stand it, when we gradually worked our way back to the beach, the wind and rain dashing the waves or surf high on shore, running frequently up on to us in the dark nearly waist deep. We kept on up the beach for four or five miles, when I became totally exhausted. They led me out onto the low sand ridge found a small hole or crevice made by the winds in the loose sand, stuck down two small sticks on each side of the crevice, spread a small piece of Indian matting over the sticks, made me crawl beneath so as to shelter my head and shoulders from the rain, and then laid down on my feet and legs to keep me warm.
Just at daylight we were up and on our way again as fast as we could travel. Arrived at Peterson's Point shortly after sunrise, dug up our canoe, quickly embarked and paddled out into the middle of the bay. During all of this time not a word was spoken by either of us, all being done by signs and as noiselessly as possible.
While the Indians were digging up the canoe, I gathered a small quantity of the beautiful blue-black sand which lay in shining ridges on top of the white sand on the point, the rain and early morning sun making it sparkle and glitter in beautiful colors. I had no thought of gold being found among it then, but learned afterward that considerable quantities of fine placer gold was washed from this sand.
After getting a good mile from shore my Indians began talking to each other in a low tone of voice, very slow and deliberate, and it was near noon before they explained to me in Chinook the narrow escape we had made. on ascending the Chehalis to nearly opposite the present town of Elma my Indians left me in the canoe and after about four hours delay came back with three Indian ponies, led by hair ropes they used for bridles.
We soon mounted, using our blankets for saddles, and took a trail up stream through the thickest of brush, jumping high logs, floundering down steep banks, across boulders and stony points, bruised and scratched by overhanging limbs and sharp rocks, until we reached the open country at the lower end of Mound Prairie.
My Indians accompanied me to Olympia and had many a story to tell of their journey to a far off land in company with two "Boston tyees." I was pleased to meet one of these Indians not long ago on the reservation near Oakville, in Chehalis county, and although he had not seen me for more than thirty-five years, he almost instantly recognized me and showed great joy at meeting me.
Colonel Anderson was elected the second delegate to Congress from Washington territory, Columbia Lancaster being the first. He never returned to the territory after his election. He was a general in the confederate army, was severely wounded and died before or soon after the war closed. He was a splendid gentleman socially, of fine appearance and most excellent company on a long jaunt of the kind described. He was a relative by marriage of General John Adair of Astoria, Oregon. I afterward assisted Anderson in completing the census of the territory.
Urban E. Hicks. Tacoma Sunday Ledger. June 26,1892.
THE INDIAN WAR OF 1855-56
In the summer of 1855, gold placer diggings were discovered on the tributaries of the upper Columbia river, called the Colville Mines.
Isaac I Stevens, appointed and commissioned by President Franklin Pierce, governor and Indian superintendent for the new territory of Washington, was also instructed to make a preliminary survey for the Northern Pacific railroad across the plains; and empowered to treat with the Indians on the plains while crossing. With the Yakima and Clickitat tribes such a treaty had been fully perfected, and Agent Bolland sent into their country to take charge and distribute annuities.
On receipt of news of the discovery of gold, several prospecting parties left the Sound country, going by trail across the mountains and through these tribes' territory. Stevens, fearing trouble with Indians not fully treated with, went back to the vicinity of the newly discovered mines to perfect peace with the wild men of the plains, leaving the Honorable Charles H. Mason, territorial secretary as acting governor during his absence. Major Granville 0. Haller of the regular army had been sent out on the plains with a small detachment of troops to protect emigrants and cooperate with Stevens if necessary.
About the first of October, 1855, word came to Olympia by pony express that Major Haller had been attacked and routed and that Stevens was in great danger. A messenger by the name of Bill Tid was dispatched from the commandant of the garrison at Vancouver to Olympia, the capital of the territory conveying this news to Acting Governor Mason, with a request that he immediately muster a company of volunteers to accompany a detachment of regular troops across the Cascades by way of the Nachess pass, to rescue Haller and Stevens. News was also received that Agent Bolland had been killed and many of the prospecting parties waylaid and massacred, only a few escaping.
A company of volunteers was quickly recruited principally in and around Olympia and Steilacoom with Judge Gilmore Hayes as captain. Colonel Silas Casey of Fort Steilacoom, ordered out nearly the entire force stationed at this post under the command of Captain M. Maloney and as soon as possible the combined troops started across the mountains.
The settlements west of the mountains were along or near the shores of Puget Sound, Olympia being headquarters with small villages at Steilacoom, Seattle, Port Townsend, and a few residents on Bellingham Bay. Scattering settlements had been made along the valleys of the principal streams, the most numerous being those on the Duwamish or White River and a few on the Puyallup and Nisqually.
South of Olympia the country was more settled, it being easier of access, but at the breaking out of the war the entire white population north of the Columbia River, I believe, did not exceed five thousand. The Indian population was variously estimated at from twelve thousand to twenty thousand. There was no settlement or at most but very few east of the mountains, none with families. No one, however, entertained any fear of the Indians west of the Cascades as they were generally regarded as a cowardly fish-eating vagabond race but little above the brute, of whom one hundred white men could whip a regiment. They were easily led into the vices of the white man while imitating few of his virtues.
In 1853 Congress made a small appropriation and Captain George B. McClellan, was commissioned to open a wagon road across the Cascade mountains north of the Columbia. over this trail one train of immigrants came in the fall of 1853 as did Governor Stevens and his surveying party, but the winter winds and rains had nearly obliterated the trail in many places by 1855-56. This was the only open road or trail beyond the plains or open lands north and east of Steilacoom, with perhaps a short way opened on the Duwamish to the mouth of the Green river and a trail up the Puyallup.
Some uneasiness was noticed among the better class of Indians those who were hunters on the Upper White, Puyallup and Nisqually Rivers, but the whites still had little fear of an outbreak. The Indians west of the mountains were divided into small tribes or bands, all more or less intermixed, but each claiming their own particular chief or head man, and each tribe using a little different dialect.
The Nisquallies were, perhaps, the most numerous of the upper Sound tribes, those of the lower Sound being subject to frequent raids from the more warlike tribes of the north or British Columbia were kept reduced in number.
The Hudson's Bay Company traders had invented a sort of a combination of these dialects, mixed with Canadian French called the Chinook jargon, the Chinook being the name of the most numerous tribe at the mouth of the Columbia River. All the Indians had to learn this language as well as the whites, but as it contained words belonging to each and all, or nearly so, all readily acquired it.
About two hundred fifty words composed the principal vocabulary and answered all purposes for trade and intercourse between whites and Indians, frequently among the latter alone. The chiefs or head men among these tribes were well known to the whites. Satisfactory treaties had been negotiated with all these tribes, and no serious cause of complaint was known to exist. Governor Stevens and the commandants at Military posts were, perhaps as much surprised at the sudden outbreak west of the mountains as were any of the citizens.
Considerable effort had been made by humane and Christian people to ameliorate the condition of the poor creatures wherever possible, and the social equality displayed on the part of the whites generally seemed to satisfy their aspirations, in not being infrequent that invitations to eat at the same table with white families were offered and game, fish and berries were freely exchanged for castoff clothing, trinkets, etc. among the females as well as males on each side. Many of the whites were nearly as poor in personal effects as were the Indians, and a community of interests appeared common.
Following the departure of the troops across the mountains at the request of Acting Governor Mason, Charles Eaton, who had married a woman of the Nisqually tribe, organized a small company of the oldest residents with James McAllister, who could talk with the Nisquallys in their own tongue, as first lieutenant to interview the tribes on the upper Puyallup and White rivers with a view to ascertain their status and prevent, if possible, their joining the hostiles east of the mountains.
At the crossing of the Puyallup, by the Mullan road, Eaton left his main company in a small log cabin, and taking McAllister and Michael Connell, the latter had built a log house and barn and fenced a few acres on the prairie between Puyallup and White Rivers, went on, unarmed to show the Indians perfect confidence in their previous professions of friendship to Connell's place where a band of twenty or thirty had gathered as soon as the troops had passed.
Leschi, one of the best hunters and most intelligent of the Nisqually, Puyallup and White river bands, who had been chosen by Governor Stevens as the chief spokesman among these bands, although he was never fully acknowledged as a chief by them, was at the head of the band at Connell's. Eaton and McAllister held a short parley with them in which they still professed friendship and the three men started on the return to camp, accompanied by a friendly Indian from the band. The road or trail made a long detour through the timber this side of the prairie, crossing a wide deep swamp.
The white men followed the trail, but the Indians by cutting across could reach the further side of the swamp some time before the whites could get there. Just at this edge of the swamp the party was ambushed and McAllister and Connell killed and Eaton and the friendly Indians narrowly making their escape.
(As to the ?) hardships, and dangers encountered by the pioneers of the northwest my purpose has been accomplished. And what shall be said of the wives and mothers of those days, of the anxieties, privations and fears endured and heroically sustained? God only is able to give just reward.
Urban East Hicks. Tacoma Sunday Ledger
PART FOUR - EXCERPTS FROM 1886 INDIAN WAR ACCOUNT
Upon completion of the blockhouse on South Prairie, and while waiting further orders, about twenty-five of us started out on a scout toward the foot of Mount Rainier, carrying gun, cartridge box, twenty one rounds, two days provisions and blanket.
We took in company a young friendly Indian as guide or spy for Indian signs. We reached the mountain at dusk and camped just below the snow line on that magnificent peak. Thus far we had seen but very little indication of recent Indians sign, except a blazing fire from a few pieces of fir bark on the top of a high hill which we had just climbed, but no tracks or other sign.
On our return the next day by a different route and while on a very high plateau, densely timbered, our Indian spy noticed a small fir limb sticking in the ground in a peculiar manner, showing that it could not have fallen thus from a tree, but not the least sign of foot print or mark of Indian or animal.
After a sharp close inspection another limb, similarly stuck, about one hundred fifty or two hundred yards away was discovered. This led on to another but still no track or trail, and so on for about one mile or more.
Then we entered a dense cedar swamp. Here we suddenly found a large number of cedar trees quite recently stripped of bark and a wide beaten track leading to a large ranch, built on a slight rise, close to a stream of water. We got close to the ranch before those inside suspected our presence.
One shot was fired at us, but did no harm. As the savages came out of the one hole in the front, they were shot down, big and little, squaws and all, except one buck and one squaw who ran side by side the full length of our fire and escaped. In the ranch was found numerous household trinkets, dresses, dishes, spoons, knives and forks, rings and keepsakes, taken from the residences of the families massacred on White river.
I also found the scalp of one of the white women, who had been so cruelly murdered. We saved such articles as might be desired by the friends of the murdered families, burned the ranch and left the dead bodies of the savages just as they had fallen when they were shot.
Personal recollections of Captain U. E. Hicks, scenes incidents, dangers, and hardships endured during the Yakima and Clickitat Indian war, 1855 and 1856.
A few days following this incident, a Lieutenant from Colonel Silas Casey's command, United States Army, came out to South Prairie with about a dozen regulars and were joined with an equal number of our boys. They proceeded on to the headwaters of the Nisqually river, where another ranch of the Indians was found. Some were killed and the remainder taken prisoners, including the squaws. They then returned to Montgomery's where a trial was held and two of the prisoners sentenced to be shot and one hung. Execution was postponed until the next morning.
The fellow sentenced to be hung howled and raved all night. An Indian fears death by hanging more than any other punishment. The next morning he told the guard that the great Ta-mah-na-wis spirit had come to him in the night and told him that he could not be hung; that the rope would break.
The two who were shot met their doom without murmur. A convenient oak limb was found near camp, and the black devil led out to it, all the while calling loudly on his spirit Tyee; one end of a rope was duly adjusted to his neck and the other thrown over the limb, when three or four pulled on it, raising the Indian five or six feet above the ground.
The body spun around rapidly for about half a minute when the rope did break, sure enough. A knife quickly cut the rope from his neck and he was allowed to regain his breath for a few minutes. In the meantime one of the boys ran back to camp and soon returned dragging a long lariat through the wet grass. This was adjusted to the Indians neck and he was again swung up, where he remained for several hours. His Ta-mah-na-wis had not calculated on the strength of a raw hide rope.
Personal recollections of Captain U. E. Hicks, scenes, incidents, dangers, and hardships endured during the Yakima and Clickitat Indian-War, 1855 and 1856.
When Governor Stevens issued his proclamation commanding all peaceable disposed and non-combatant Indians to be removed to the island reservation, Dr. Tolmie, Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company's post at Fort Nisqually obtained permission from the Governor to keep a few Indians around his post, vouching for their conduct while the war lasted. The Indians kept by Tolmie were suspicioned of giving information and aid to the hostiles whenever chance offered.
In my company was a man by the name of Lake (John A. Lake, Second corporal), a brother to one of the families massacred on White River. Of course he was bitter against all red-skins, friend or foe. The sad fate of his dear relatives seemed to weigh upon his mind so much so that at times he would become almost frantic, and it was with difficulty that he could be restrained from acts of violence towards friendly Indians in our own camp. The poor fellow died shortly after the close of the war, from over-exposure and mental worry.
While the companies were camped at Montgomery's preparatory to crossing the mountains, Lake obtained a furlough to go to Steilacoom, eighteen miles distant, on private business. On his return the next evening he passed Fort Nisqually just at dusk and was seen by some squaws. A short distance beyond the fort he saw a big Indian buck in the woods close to the trail.
The temptation was too great for him to withstand, so he levelled his gun, and knocked the Indian over, the report of his rifle being heard at the fort. On reaching camp at night, he sent for me. I found him hid away in his tent, when he, whispering, told me what he had done.
I scolded him for the act, but still could not help sympathizing with him, as, indeed he had the sympathy of the entire company and camp. I cautioned him to keep quiet and promised that I would do what I could to shield him from further trouble.
The next morning Dr. Tolmie, accompanied by two or three squaws, appeared in camp and immediately entered complaint before Colonel Shaw that one of his friendly Indians had been killed the evening before, near the fort, by a volunteer and had brought the squaws along to identify the man seen passing the fort a few minutes before Hearing the report of the rifle, and if the man could be found, he (Tolmie) demanded his immediate arrest and punishment.
The Colonel ordered all the companies to be drawn up in line. It then became generally known what had happened and it required considerable effort on the part of the officers to keep the men in line while the roll was being called and they were being examined by Dr. Tolmie and his squaws.
My company was the last to be examined, and although it was by that time pretty generally suspected who they were after, still it was hoped by the boys that by noise and confusion they would so frighten the squaws that they would fail to identify.
The line was passed without identification for Lake had changed his clothes. Dr. Burns, knowing Lake to be the suspected party and had been absent from camp a day or two previous and being a warm friend of Dr. Tolmie pointed to where Lake stood in line when he was recognized by the squaws.
Scarcely had he been pointed out by the squaws before the men, and in spite of the efforts of their officers, all broke ranks and with wild yells rushed for their guns, threatening dire vengeance upon Dr. Tolmie and his squaws if Lake was touched.
It required the utmost exertion on the part of the officers to save them from assault. They ran for dear life to the Colonel's tent, imploring his protection. The officers surrounded the tent and kept back the infuriated mob until order was somewhat restored when the Doctor agreed that if the men would permit him and his squaws to escape, he would not molest Lake any further.
A way was opened for them, through which they ran to their horses, quickly mounting and galloped off, no doubt heartily glad to get away with their scalps to the now infinite amusement of the men. No more was heard of the affair.
Personal recollections of Capt. U. E. Hicks, scenes, incidents, dangers and hardships endured during the Yakima and Clickitat Indian War, 1855 and 1856.
Among the residents in my neighborhood was a much respected farmer named William White whose family, with others were forted up in what was known as Eaton Fort on Chambers Prairie. No hostile Indians having been seen or heard of in that neighborhood for a long time, the family went, on Sunday, to a religious meeting, held in a country, school house a few miles distant.
Mrs. White and another lady named Stewart, with a child in her arms rode in a small one-horse cart, while Mr. White walked and drove. On their return, and when almost within sight of the fort, a party of six Indians, headed by Yelm Jim a well known Indian in that neighborhood rushed out on horseback from a point of timber near the road and attacked White.
An effort was made to get hold of the reins of White's horse, and in the scuffle they were dropped. A shot was fired at White, wounding him severely, but he still continued to fight his assailants manfully until overpowered and killed.
In the meantime the horse, taking fright at the shots and noise started on a keen run down the road toward the fort. An attempt was made to overtake him, but he was too fleet for the savage's ponies. The women clung to the cart, and the big gate being open, the horse ran straight into the fort, thus saving the lives of the two women and child; but the mother holding the child in her arms had one foot terribly mangled by the wheel of the cart, and but one board remained of the cart-bed when they reached the fort.
The body of Mr. White was found the next day by a relief party near the scene of attack, stripped and horribly cut to pieces. Yelm Jim was afterward caught and hung for this deed. Mrs. White is now the wife of the Hon. S. D. Ruddell of Olympia.
About this time, or perhaps prior, a man by the name of Northcraft engaged in hauling supplies from Olympia to the Yelm Prairie was waylaid on the road about half-way between Chambers Prairie and the Yelm, the savages taking him from the wagon after he was wounded, and tying him to a tree, amused themselves by shooting arrows into him and otherwise tormenting him until he expired.
The wagon and contents that they could not carry away with them was destroyed.
Personal recollections of Capt. U. E. Hicks, Scenes, incidents, dangers, and hardships endured during the Yakima and Clickitat Indian War, 1855-56.
PART FIVE - MINING IN THE 1850s
Urban East Hicks, "Mining in the 1850s" Tacoma Weekly Ledger, May 19, 1893.
In the spring of 1858, soon after news reached Olympia that gold placer mines had been discovered on the Fraser river, Gallatin Hartsock, John Forbes, Thomas B. Hicks and the writer formed a party, purchased a chinook canoe, loaded it with provisions, mining tools, etc. and set out down the Sound for the new ElDorado.
Our canoe was a splendid specimen of Indian architecture, twenty feet in length, made from a large cedar tree, nearly new and decorated with a long prow like a swan's neck, the edges of the prow studded with small marine shells, having the appearance of beads, and gaily painted vermillion on the inside.
It was well stanchioned with ribs and thwarts and as tight as a drum. Four well made, light maple paddles and a large canvas sail constituted our propelling machinery, which, with a favorable wind and good muscles, buoyed by hopes of shining dust lying just beyond, only awaiting our arrival to be gathered into long purses, fairly skimmed us over the bright shining waves of the sea.
We watched the receding shores, as we moved along, on each side of us like a flying panorama. We chose paddles rather than oars because we could hug shores closer against strong currents, and all could sit facing the direction the canoe was going. We found it much to our advantage in this respect, as ascending the rapid currents of the river and in making sharp turns around projecting rocks and rugged promontories.
I had been employed in the Pioneer and Democrat newspaper office for some time previous, and owing to the hardships and exposures endured in the Indian war campaign of 1855-56 had not fully recovered which, together with close confinement in a printing office for more than twelve months, had reduced me in strength and flesh very much and I hailed with delight the opportunity of outdoor life again and an open sail on the broad salt waters of the Sound.
Let me here say that the trip of about five months had me in the water more or less nearly every day, frequently up to my neck and shoulders in the icy waters of the Fraser river, yet I caught no cold nor felt an ache or pain, and never enjoyed better health. Not any of us had more than a limited experience in the handling of a canoe, but my brother Tom, who had been in the custom house employ under Colonel Isaac N. Ebey, was pretty well acquainted with the various channels and numerous islands of the Sound, and he assumed command of the craft and did the steering. Hartsock was my wife's father, Forbes was a brother-in-law and we two brothers formed the party. Forbes took the bow of the canoe, Hartsock, being a large stout man, was seated in the center, the writer just behind him and brother Tom in the stern.
We skirted the east shore of the Sound all the way down, touching at Steilacoom and Seattle, for Tacoma was not then thought of, and passed through the canoe passage east of Whidbey Island out into Bellingham Bay, and arrived at Whatcom about the 1st of June, 1858.
Here were camped about two thousand miners in tents and log huts, around the mud flats and debris of the remains of an old saw mill and timbers of tramways and broken wharves used by the Bellingham Bay Coal Mining Company. Every conceivable kind of small sailing craft lined the shore and filled the offing and a roaring rollicking, rough and tumble scene met the eye on all sides.
I have been asked to explain who so many miners were at Whatcom in the early discovery of gold on the Fraser river. Nearly all of them were from California.
Steamship and sailing lines advertised to carry passengers from San Francisco to the gold fields, but only landed them at Victoria. From thence they had to make their way as best they could across the gulf to the mainland, some fifty or sixty miles to the Fraser river and thence up the river for at least one hundred more before reaching the gold fields.
There was no trail on land up the river at that time though a wagon road was afterward opened as far as Port Hope which required some years to construct. An effort was made to build up a rival town to Victoria on the American side of the boundary line and Bellingham bay was the most feasible point.
A small trail was cut from the Bay to Fort Langley on the Fraser River over which many miners packed their outfits and then trusted to luck to get up the river. One or two small stern-wheel steamers were running on the river as far up as Port Hope. Many purchased canoes and other small craft from the Indians on the bay and among the islands and made their way up the river by way of the entrance or mouth.
Whatcom, at the time we reached it, was a busy place, built up mostly of canvas tents where large quantities of miners' supplies were promiscuously piled, while others were constructing log houses, and one small brick structure was put up, about fourteen by sixteen feet, which still stands to mark spot around which most of the business was then centered. But little was doing toward permanent improvement, as all seemed bent on getting out of there as quick as possible for the mines.
Many were returning from the mines, badly busted and forlorn, while as many more were going on utterly oblivious to the warnings and woeful stories of hardships and disappointments that had befallen those who were returning. We, like others, paid no heed to the warnings but determined to push on, and after one day's rest again pulled out from the shore for the mouth of the Fraser river.
I verily believe that had we met the last white man who had been to the mines on his return and had he told us not to go, we would have gone on, for we had started for the mines and we intended to get there "sink or swim, bust or no bust."
We skirted along the shores of the bay until we found our way into the Nooksack and thence into the gulf of Georgia. Our first night out from Whatcom we attempted to camp on a sand spit at or near the mouth of the Nooksack, and not knowing the state of the tides in the gulf we came near getting swamped in the quicksand before getting afloat again.
While we were wading and floundering through the treacherous sands, in pitchy darkness, with a roaring surf in our rear and a howling wind in our faces, trying to get our canoe into deep water again, a party of belated stragglers, like ourselves, who were not far distant on a kind of raft made of drift logs and old sawmill slabs, stuck fast in the sinking sands and surrounded by the howling phosphorescent waves, struck up the old familiar song:
"Ain't you mighty glad you got out of Whatcom,
Got out of Whatcom, got out of Whatcom,
Ain't you mighty glad you got out of Whatcom,
Down in Bellingham Bay?"
Well, yes, we were glad to get out of Whatcom, even though we were in such a predicament. And I have many times thought since of the circumstance and the narrow escapes we made on that and many other occasions during the trip.
The next day we made the long pull of twenty miles or more across the gulf to Point Roberts. The sun shone down on us with a scorching heat. Long rolling waves made our canoe swing from the crest of high mountains of water down into deep valleys and all of us paid more or less tribute to old Neptune while keeping up a steady stroke with our paddles.
The tide and currents were against us, and late in the evening we arrived, tired and worn out, on a beautiful narrow beach on the east side of the long peninsula. It had a small stream of cold water trickling down among the rocks and a cool shade of arbutus and white willows lining the beach. Instead of rounding the point, as we should have done, we were only too glad to get ashore and rest our tired limbs and quench our burning thirst.
Brother Tom and John Forbes generally slept in the canoe while old man Hartsock and myself bunked ashore. Just at daylight the next morning the old man and I were aroused by the shouts of the boys for us to hurry aboard. The tide had receded, the wind suddenly arose and the canoe pounding on the rocks, threatening destruction at every wave.
We had to wade out waist deep to get to the canoe, got in and pulled with all our might to get out of the way of the rocks, when we encountered a heavy chopped sea, the waves like hay cocks, which our canoe could not ride but plunged through filling it almost full and for a few minutes threatening to engulf us among the rocks and whirlpools, which it would have been impossible to survive.
However we rounded the point just in time and beached the boat. We hurriedly unloaded, built a fire and proceeded to dry out as fast as possible. Our flour was in sacks and was the self raising kind, being manufactured and mixed with cream soda, as most all flour for miners was then made. The warm sun soon appeared and by evening we were all right again. We pulled out and entered the mouth of the Fraser River just about sundown.
The English authorities at Victoria had stationed a small gunboat in the river just above the mouth for the purpose of collecting a mining tax from all Americans seeking to trade or mine on the river. of this we had been warned and its location accurately described by those returning and we resolved to dodge the tax if possible.
Chance favored us with a brisk breeze up stream. The tide was also with us, and about dusk we hoisted sail, pulled out into the broad stream, and plied our paddles vigorously. When about opposite the gun boat we were hailed and ordered to come ashore, to which we paid no attention. A loud threat, accompanied by the rattling of chains and rumbling of gun carriage on deck, informed us that if we did not stop we would be fired upon. We told them to shoot and be if they wanted to, that we had good American powder and ball and it was a game that two could play at.
The commander ordered a ship's boat lowered, manned with a crew of sailors to overhaul us, but we laughed at them. They pushed out lively after us, but our craft soon left them far behind and we escaped. The tax was five dollars per quarter for each miner or trader.
We passed Fort Langley the next day, on the opposite side of the island and saw no more tax gatherers until long afterward. A good many Americans paid the tax, but we never paid a cent. A namesake of mine came around in the fall trying to collect this tax. I argued him out of it. He claimed that the tax went to maintain the Victoria police, not one of whom were on the river at that time.
I pointed out to him that had it not been for Yankee enterprise these mines would probably never have been discovered; that their discovery brought the country into notice and greatly augmented the trade and wealth of the town of Victoria; that the American miners needed no police protection nor interference; that we were abundantly able to take care of ourselves, and that we did not propose to pay tax for the maintenance of a few British marines at Victoria.
It was a shame, if not robbery, to compel the poor miner to pay a license to mine before he had discovered whether there was anything to mine. Not one in a hundred who reached the country was able to find half the amount it cost him to get there.
On reaching the first rapids in the river we came to a large ranch of Indians camped on a low island or sandbar. The whole camp was on a platform erected near the middle of the river, about ten or twelve feet in height, where they lounged and slept, to get above the immense swarms of mosquitoes that rose from the surface of the water in clouds that fairly darkened the sun and stifled the breath. I have seen mosquitoes on the Mississippi bottoms, but nothing to compare with the swarms we encountered on the Fraser River.
We had to carry a brush in each hand, and at every stroke of the paddle brush the face and neck, and yet the blood trickled down each side of the next from the ears and our faces were swollen from the bites and stings of these desperate insects. At night we generally camped near a large drift, which we set on fire and then got into the thickest of the smoke, covered head and ears with our blankets and managed to sleep a little.
At the first ranch of Indians we hired the son of the chief to pilot our canoe. He assumed command and by his knowledge of the currents and eddies we made much better progress than we could without him. He was followed in a small canoe by his two wives who at night time camped near us. We were lucky in getting the son for a helmsman, as he was well known by all the Indians on the river and his presence saved us from molestation and annoyance.
The Indians of the Fraser river are of a brighter color, much more intelligent and brave than those of the Sound country. They gave the miners much annoyance by theft and robbery. Several whites were massacred below Port Hope and above there white miners and Chinese were waylaid, killed and their heads cut off and bodies cast into the stream.
In this hostile attitude they were evidently encouraged by old Hudson Bay Company trappers and employees who had settled among them. They looked upon the Boston men or Americans as enemies to their race while the English or King George men were regarded as friends. My brother Tom and I had fought the Indians before and we could all talk the jargon or chinook language pretty well; hence we knew how to deal with them and they generally let us alone as soon as they made our acquaintance. We were five days going up the river. The same distance I afterwards made in one day coming down.
When we arrived at Port Yale we found at least five thousand miners camped just below the mouth of the great canyon, though which it was almost an utter impossibility to push further with canoes or any kind of craft. Still hundreds would try it, only to meet with disaster and death. Large canoes and boats would be caught in the whirl, be upended and disappear, going straight down, only to be seen miles below all in splinters.
It reminded me of the sight I had seen at below Port Hope. But few were engaged in washing the gravel and sands of the shore, but between Port Hope and Port Yale both sides of the stream were lined pretty thickly all along with men of every nation and tongue, busily at work with rocker and long tom, digging into the banks and washing the loose sand and gravel of the various bars and shoals of the rapid stream.
The water was icy cold as it came rushing down from the snows and ice caps of the far north. The principal bars that were being mined between Port Hope and Port Yale, fifteen miles in extent were Puget Sound bar, Emery's bar, and Hill's bar, the latter being just across the river from Port Yale and the richest bar on the lower Fraser. Apparently every inch of ground where a prospect could be found was claimed between the above named ports, and to go further was out of the question for us. After some consultation we decided to drop back down to Puget Sound bar, a majority of the claimants on that bar being from the Puget Sound country.
We located claims at the head of the bar, the water of the bar being eight or ten feet deep at that time. We built a comfortable log cabin and brother Tom and John Forbes took the canoe and went into the freighting business. No steamer was then plying the river that could make the rapids from Port Hope to Yale, hence all goods and supplies had to be transferred to small boats at Hope and towed by long ropes around the most dangerous and rapid places.
They made each five dollars a day, taking a full day to make the trip up and then coming down in less than forty minutes. Soon after we located the miners of the bar held a meeting to elect a new bookkeeper or alcade of the bar, the one first chosen having resigned and left for home. Through personal friendship of Joseph Foster of Seattle, who had been a member of the legislature of Washington territory from King County, the writer was chosen as bookkeeper.
I had never been in the mines before and really knew nothing of the duties of the office, but Foster made a majority of boys believe otherwise and I was chosen by nearly a unanimous vote. Soon after this Billy Ballou started an express route on the river and gave me the agency for the bar. The two offices enabled me to make enough to keep up expenses until the water fell so that we could commence washing the sand and gravel on our claims.
In California the heads of bars were always found to be the richest and when we succeeded in getting the first pan of dirt and it panned out about six bits, we could have sold for five thousand dollars but we felt sure of a much larger sum. A small portable sawmill was running on the bluff opposite Yale where we bought enough lumber paying one hundred dollars per thousand feet, to built a forty foot current wheel to raise water for a sluice.
This wheel we set on two large flatboats for which we paid four hundred and fifty dollars and after about two month's steady work we got our sluice running. We employed two sets of hands and ran night and day. I ran the night shift and Hartsock the day force. We paid four dollars per day and five dollars per night and board.
The first run of about forty hours we took out about nine hundred dollars which enabled us to square up all our indebtedness and lay in additional supplies. We took in another partner which enabled us to hold five claims in one body. Each claimant, by rules of the bar, was entitled to hold twenty-five feet up and down the bar or bank, and running back into the hill indefinitely.
To illustrate how luck runs in a mining camp I will state an incident. The boys were in the habit of coming up to our cabin in the evening to get their mail, learn the news and swap stories. I had practiced a little in making machine poetry or mining songs, and occasionally would offer one of the evening's entertainment.
One of those jingling rhymes seemed to please a poor, simple fellow who held a claim a short distance below us, and he proposed that if I would give him a copy of my song he would give me his claim. The transfer was duly made and in a few days after I sold the claim for a hundred dollars cash, and the parties who bought it within two weeks took out over two thousand dollars in small, round dust, which they discovered in a pocket or hole near the main bank which had previously been covered with water and where no one thought of looking for more than mere color.
We did not take out much more than this from all our claims, and I returned home at the commencement of winter with just about as much as it had cost me to go and come.
Another incident will show miners luck. One day I got a pot of badly burnt beans outside our cabin door along side of which the mail trail ran and over which hundreds of miners were coming and going. About noon I noticed a poor fellow come stumbling along. As he passed the pot of beans he stopped and looked earnestly at it and then looked all around to see if anyone was near.
When he saw me he moved a little further off and again stopped and looked at the beans. I went up and asked him what he wanted. He weakly and half hesitatingly asked me if he might have those beans in the pot. I told him he could and at them he went like a hungry wolf. I watched him for a few minutes as he stuffed the black and badly burned grub down his throat and ordered him to hold on. The poor fellow was half scared through fear that I would take them away from him. I invited him inside the shanty, warmed a pot of coffee and set out a hunk of bread and some cold boiled ham and bade him pitch in.
I then saw that the poor fellow was nearly starved. He had been away up Thompson river, had run out of grub, was nearly naked and barefooted and was trying to make his way back as best he could. He had come from San Francisco, where he had been the head bookkeeper in a large wholesale grocery establishment, and was a young man of fine education and social standing at home.
As we needed additional help just then, I gave him a job shoveling tailings during the night run, out of which he made enough to get a good pair of boots, better clothing, and pay his passage by steamer to San Francisco. There is so much, if not more distress, hunger, want and poverty to be seen right in the midst of a mining camp than anywhere else on earth, and my experience taught me that it is not as a general thing the one who dips the precious metal out of the ground who gets the best share, but rather the saloonkeeper, gambler and trader.
The upper Fraser was no doubt richer in gold deposits than the lower, but the whole seemed to be placer, as no quartz leads have been discovered that would pay working. The gold was float gold, difficult to save, requiring large quantities of quick silver, and the best of apparatus to catch and save enough to pay for labor and expenses in mining. Most of the lower bars and mining camps soon fell into the hands of Chinamen, thousands of whom remained for many years and are still employed in many places from Port Hope to the headwaters of all tributaries.
The Indians, as before stated, gave the whites much trouble and annoyance at the outset until finally two companies of volunteers, of one hundred men each, were organized, armed and equipped, who marched in parallel lines on each side of the river and cleaned the Indians completely out, burning their ranches and winter provisions whenever found.
The Indians caught and dried large quantities of salmon, upon which they subsisted during the winter. These salmon dryhouses had very much the appearance of old Missouri tobacco dryhouses, tons of salmon being hung up under long sheds, which when set on fire, would create a blaze that could be seen and smelled for miles around. This raid was gotten up entirely by the American miners, without waiting to consult the British authorities and was over before it was fairly known in Victoria.
Governor Douglas of Victoria afterward came up to Yale with a small file of marines, but peace had been restored, the volunteers returned and disbanded before he got there.
Among the noted personages at Yale along about this time was the notorious Ned McGowan, of vigilante notoriety in San Francisco. I had just read his pamphlet detailing his narrow escapes and hot pursuit by the vigilant committee of San Francisco and curiosity lead me to take a trip up to Yale one evening to see him. He was the king of the gamblers and thugs on the Pacific Coast, and a more repulsive looking wretch was not to be met with anywhere.
I came near being shot at for my timidity in trying to get a good look at him, as I was mistaken for a vigilante spy just from San Francisco. The failure of a pistol cap, perhaps, saved me from becoming another one of his victims.
As before stated I returned home at the commencement of winter, coming down as far as Langley in a canoe, and there engaging passage on a small stern wheel steamer owned by one of the Wrights who charged us ten dollars each for passage to Victoria. The boat had been condemned by the British authorities at Victoria and as we were crossing the gulf we met the little propeller Blackhawk with a letter of warning on board to the captain whereupon about thirty of the forty passengers were transferred to the Blackhawk and the remainder were taken back to Langley.
The captain refused to refund our passage money and as there was no legal redress we had to pocket our loss. A clear case of downright robbery. After waiting a day or two in Langley the old Hudson Bay Company steamer Otter came up with a quantity of coal for the gunboat and after unloading took on board about two hundred fifty passengers at Langley for Victoria, passage five dollars.
We were all crowded on the upper deck without food or shelter and the deck was covered with coal dust. She steamed down to the mouth of the river in the evening and found the water so rough at the bar the Captain decided not to risk it until the weather was more favorable. He anchored just above the first island in the river and remained all night in howling wind and freezing cold.
The only warmth we could get was around the smoke stack and much scrambling, pulling and hauling took place among a lot of desperate men to hold and retain a place near the stack. A dozen bloody fights were the result before daylight. We were becoming desperate and an impromptu meeting was held by the miners, a committee instructed to interview the captain and demand that he either proceed to Victoria or take us back to Langley where we could get something to eat. He decided to cross the sands at all hazards and for the second time I thought the bottom of the sea was my destiny. But the Otter was a very staunchly built boat, and although we struck the bottom several times before getting into deep water, she finally made Victoria about ten o'clock at night, landing as dirty ragged, frozen and hungry a set of mortals as was ever seen. We had been about forty hours without anything to eat or fresh water to drink, and many were so numb with cold they could scarcely walk.
In Victoria I disposed of my dust at fourteen and a half dollars an ounce and took passage on a small sloop called the Blue Wing, Captain Jimmy Jones, skipper, for Olympia, paying thirteen dollars for passage. We made the run in twenty-three hours, about the fastest trip that had been known by sail up to that time.
Hartsock, Forbes and brother Thomas remained on the river all winter, the two former returning in the Spring having but little with them and brother Tom has remained on the river ever since. All of the party are still alive and I very believe the trip added years to the life of all.
Urban E. Hicks. East Sound, Orcas Island, March, 1893
PART SIX - A NEWSPAPER CONTROVERSY
A letter to the Editor of the Tacoma Ledger written by "Old Settler," of South Tacoma, Washington, dated August 4, 1892 and a response from Mr. Hicks dated August 21, 1892.
A response to an article written by James Wickersham published November 14, 1897 in the Tacoma Ledger by Urban E. Hicks published in the Tacoma Ledger December 26, 1897 in which Hicks writes that Wickersham "...openly attacks the honor and reputation of white men long dead, which seems to me should not go unanswered."
LETTER TO THE EDITOR FROM "OLD SETTLER"
To the Editor of the Ledger: Excelsior, August 4, 1892.
I saw an article in the Ledger of May 15th, written by Urban E. Hicks, giving an account of what he saw on the plains in 1851. He says: "I do not exaggerate when I state we frequently saw at one sight as many as fifty thousand buffalo."
Now this statement of Mr. Hicks reminds me of two stories I have heard. One was of the foxes' tails in olden times being two yards long. The other was of a girl who became very much excited on seeing some squirrels run up a tree. The girl told her father that she saw ten thousand squirrels run up one tree. Her father says: "Why no, daughter, not quite that many." The girl says: "Well, I saw five hundred anyway." The father says: "No, no daughter, not that many." The girl then said she saw one and the tail of another anyway.
I think that must have been the way with Mr. Hicks' buffalo. I am sorry to have to criticize Mr. Hick's story, but there are more buffalo than I can swallow at one time.
In Mr. Hicks' second article of July 24th he makes several incorrect statements which in justice to myself and other old settlers I have to correct.
He says Colonel Casey, being in command at Fort Steilacoom, ordered out Captain Pickett or Captain Keys, he has forgotten which. I think he has forgotten which, as neither of them was sent across the Cascades. Neither was Colonel Casey in command at Fort Steilacoom at the time Mr. Hicks speaks of--1855. Captain Maloney was in command of Fort Steilacoom.
Captain Maloney and Lieutenant Slaughter were the officers in command of the regulars on that occasion and went across the Cascade Mountains.
Mr. Hicks further says that A. B. Moses was sheriff of Thurston County at that time, which is not a plausible story at all, that a man like A. B. Moses, a nice business man would leave a responsible office and go across the Cascade mountains at that time of year and take the chances of being snowed in, unless went a long distance through the Indian country to The Dalles, and down the Columbia to Monticello and then across to Olympia over the worst kind of road on horseback.
He was not sheriff and I can prove it. Again Mr. Hicks says that Steven Judson was sheriff of Pierce County and did the hanging of Leschi. Mr. Judson was not twenty one years old then. Mr. George Williams, a discharged soldier, was sheriff of Pierce County, and a miserable poor stick he was too. Mr. William Mitchel of Olympia was deputy sheriff of Thurston county and did the hanging of Indian Leschi.
There are other minor mis-statements which I will not mention. I am surprised at a man, who having held so many positions of trust, and who having been such a big big man should have such a treacherous memory.
Respectfully, Old Settler.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE LEDGER
East Sound, Orcas Island, Washington. August 21, 1892.
I beg to assure you that I have no desire to enter into a newspaper controversy over mistakes made by old pioneers in their recollections furnished for publication, knowing full well that the lapse of thirty-five or forty years obliterates names as well as accurate details.
But in your issue of the 14th I notice a "Correction" signed by "Old Settler" that seems to call for a brief reply, which, I hope, will not overburden your columns for space.
Who "Old Settler" is the reader is left to infer only by one remark. His modesty is to be commended in not giving his full name, prompted, no doubt, through fear that he too might be suspected of an itching desire to see his name in print.
In my story of the Indian War of 1855-56 I stated that I had forgotten who was in command of the small detachment of government troops stationed at Fort Steilacoom at that time, but after the story was written and forwarded for publication I read the recollections of others and saw that it was Captain Maurice Maloney, instead of Colonel Silas Casey or Captain George Pickett.
Well knowing the sensitiveness generally evinced by gentlemen of the regular army in such matters, I expected to "catch it" mildly, however, I had hoped, for the slip in names.
I am glad of the opportunity even under the intended smart of the correction which "Old Settler" has taken to set me right and give honor where honor is due. Colonel Casey and Captain Pickett did take active part in these troublous times, and afterward rose to high distinctions in their profession.
Relative to the sheriffs of Thurston and Pierce Counties, I will say, if I made a mistake in their names also it shows that I was not as familiar with such officers of the law as "Old Settler" seems to be. I can only add that A. Benton Moses was sheriff of Thurston County prior to the war and should have been written ex-sheriff of Thurston County.
And Stephen Judson, esq., was sheriff of Pierce County at or near the time of the hanging of Leschi. I did not say that Judson was the officer who executed Leschi. The sentence reads: "Leschi was subsequently tried before the civil courts in Steilacoom and hung by the sheriff." William Mitchell, of Olympia, I think was the officer who did the work commanded by the court.
Now about the buffalo (not coon) story. There are many witnesses still living who I am confident would be willing to qualify if necessary that my estimate of the number seen at one sight was not exaggerated. In the same issue of the Ledger in which "Old Settler" says he cannot swallow so many buffalo, is the story of Hugh Crockett, who was one of my companions on the plains, and to him I can appeal as to the number of buffalo seen on the Platte River while crossing.
Indeed, I thought I was quite moderate in placing the number at fifty thousand. I guess "Old Settler" didn't come to the coast that way else his stomach would have a larger capacity and certainly prefer buffalo to racoon. A respectable gentleman and merchant, residing here at East Sound who formerly did considerable travelling and business in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska says that it was not an unusual sight on those plains in the early 1850s to see as high as two hundred thousand buffaloes and that if "Old Settler" doubts my estimate of the number seen at one time, he, the merchant will bet "Old Settler" ten dollars that the latter never saw a buffalo, and knows nothing of the magnitude of numbers on the vast plains over which they roamed.
I am confident that one hundred witnesses can yet be found who would testify to seeing one hundred thousand buffalo at least at a single sight. The remarkably clear air enables the common eye of man to see long distances and moving objects as large as buffalo are easily distinguished five miles over the level plains.
As to the numerous official positions the writer has held and the bigness of the man, I offer my sincere thanks for the compliment "Old Settler" so generously bestowed and deem it scarcely worthy of further reply.
The writing of personal reminiscences necessarily draws upon the frequent use of the first person singular, but this should not deter any old settler from the liberal offer of the publisher to print his name in full, nor prevent him from entering the list of competitors, not only for the prize, but also for the satisfaction the present affords and the good that may result hereafter. All admit the interesting reading these stories present, and if a little too much egotism is now and then discernible, no great harm is done, provided the fact is not too forcibly shown to be cultus wa-wa.
Urban East Hicks. The Sunday Ledger August 28, 1892.
A WORD FOR THE PIONEERS by Urban East Hicks
Published in the Tacoma Ledger December 26, 1897 in response to an article published by James Wickersham which was printed in the Ledger on November 14, 1897.
Judge James Wickersham in The Sunday Ledger of November 14, 1897 attempts to make a god of a savage. He openly attacks the honor and reputation of white men long dead, which seems to me should not go unanswered.
There are others, still living, who were participants in the early struggles incident to the first settlement of this magnificent coast by the Americans, or Boston white men that are better able to properly answer Mr. Wickersham than myself. Still I cannot refrain from pointing out some of his most glaring misstatements as far as memory shall serve, and respectfully ask that equal space be given in defense of those who cannot now rise up in their own behalf and preserve true history from such attempts to hide or condone the true character of the savage.
The facts are that Moses, Miles, McAllister, Connell, several families on the white river and others were massacred before the whites had any knowledge or warning that the Indian on this side of the mountains were hostile. Every instance was a cold blooded murder and not open warfare.
The first settlers on or near the headwaters of Puget Sound were M. T. Simmons, Sidney S. Ford-kindred, Bush, a colored man with a white wife, Gabriel Jones, Edmund Sylvester, James McAllister, Captain Crosby and others I cannot now call to mind. Some brought families, others were single men. The Hudson Bay Company employees and factors had long occupied the country prior to the coming of these Americans.
The coming of the Bostons or a different class of white men to those to which the Indians had been accustomed, no doubt created some curiosity to see what they would do; but the offering of protection, making of presents, guiding them to safe and pleasant homes, etc. is all nonsense. The presents they had to give, or articles to exchange were confined to a few dried salmon caught from the waters of the Sound, or roots dug from the ground. Whenever an Indian makes a present, or potlatch, he expects double compensation in return, and if not freely given he is pretty sure to steal it if he can.
It is pretty hard for old pioneers to see such statements in print and be confined to a mild reply. Mr. Wickersham should reflect for a moment upon the toil, hardships and privations undergone by these "tardy" pioneers in securing this coast from a savage wilderness and adverse foreign claimant, that he might enjoy the blessings of civilization, ride in palace cars, attain high political distinction and be safe in following his poetical imaginations.
That fraud was resorted to to obtain the consent of the Indians to these treaties is a misstatement. The truth is, that had an angel from heaven dictated the terms of those treaties, the result would have been the same. There was an irrepressible conflict between the races and the white man had to prevail.
Isaac I. Stevens, first governor of Washington territory, was a West Point graduate, and stood very high in the ranks of his profession; a man of more than ordinary ability and a true friend to the Indian, whose character he studied and all of whose rights he was more than willing to conserve. He lost his life in defense of the Union and for the honor of his country.
M.T. Simmons was a noble pioneer, a perfect man, physically large and well rounded; a chief among his fellows; of fearless integrity and full of humanity; not possessing a polished education; still he was regarded as a "hyas tyee," or mighty white man. He learned their peculiar guttural sounds and could converse with several tribes in their own tongue. He thoroughly understood their character, beliefs and superstitions, and none among our own race had greater influence.
Colonel B.F. Shaw, chief interpreter in these treaties, is still living, an honored resident of Vancouver, Washington. His character needs no defense at my hands.
James McAllister was an early pioneer--a man of large family, industrious, enterprising, of sterling worth, humane and sympathetic; owner of a saw mill built on this same Medicine creek referred to by the defamatory Judge Wickersham.
Joel Palmer, Indian superintendent for Oregon after Washington was established assisted Governor Stevens in treaty making with the Indians east of the mountains, was a man of very high character a noble Christian gentleman, against whose honesty and integrity the breath of suspicion has never before dared to whisper. In fact, every man chosen by Governor Stevens to aid him with the various tribes on the coast were men of unquestioned honor and integrity and ability. All of them sought to do the very best they could for the benefit of the savage and to secure peace and safety.
The tribes living on the waters of Puget Sound have always been regarded as needing the care and direction of the white man, by reason of their low type of humanity. It was soon found that they fell easy victims to the white man's vices but imitated few of his virtues. They at first eagerly sought after the white man's goods and readily consented to exchange not only their squatter's rights to the lands, but even their honor and virtue.
The Hudson Bay Company had dealt rather sparingly with them, giving them only meager pay in exchange for their furs and labor, after exacting an enormous quantity of pelts for a common musket or a red blanket so when the Boston man came among them and offered large quantities of money, provisions, blankets, implements, clothing, hardware, etc. for their lands, of which they did not know before that they held any other title than that of conquest from other tribes, they of course, gladly agreed to let the white man build homes, open farms and stock the land with tame animals to take the place of wilderness, of which only had they had previous knowledge.
But after a time, seeing that the white man was gaining in wealth of provisions, more comfortable homes and attractive surroundings, they became envious and discontented with their bargains. Then it was that the mischief maker got among them only to increase their discontent, and fatal war was the result.
The reservation held by the remnant of these tribes is admitted by every one to be the very best and choicest tracts of land that could have been made. And in nearly every instance these selections were made by the advice and assistance of Governor Stevens and his agents.
The first selection made by the Nisqually tribe (Medicine creek valley), was of their own choosing, but they afterwards found that they could catch the salmon easier on the upper waters of the river than they could in the immediate shores of the Sound, and a reservation nearer the foothills would give them an opportunity for hunting game and roving at will, they demanded a change, which after some delay with the department in Washington was granted and they now have a beautiful prairie, fertile grounds and pleasant homes made so by the generosity of the government and the advise and assistance of the white men around them.
The Tacoma Ledger, two years or more ago, generously opened its columns and invited the pioneers of Washington to write out their reminiscences for publication. Many stories followed, and these no doubt have been carefully preserved for the future historian to correct and collate into book form to be read by generations yet to come.
The Indian War Veteran Society of the Northwest, with headquarters in Portland, Oregon, has for some years past been collecting data for this same purpose. Many details of the great war with the Indians known as the Yakima and Klickitat Indian War of 1855-56 have been preserved and it would, therefore, seem unnecessary for me, in the present instance to repeat these details; but I must correct the above quoted statement because it was made for the purpose of perverting the facts to make his story the more plausible.
After news had reached the Sound country that hostilities had broken out among the tribes east of the mountains, and before any positive knowledge as to the attitude of those west, rumor came to Olympia that a small band under the leadership of Leschi, had collected on or near Connell's Prairie.
Acting Governor C. H. Mason, in the absence of Governor Stevens, who had gone over to find out the cause of the trouble, deemed it best to keep an eye on the movements of the leaders among the Indians on this side. Mason therefore requested Charles Eaton, an old pioneer who had taken an Indian woman for a wife and who was well known among all the tribes in that section and especially by Leschi and his band to take with him a few other old residents, organized as a company of rangers and proceeded to the place where Leschi's band were last seen and have a talk with him and if possible ascertain what the band intended doing.
Upon arriving in the neighborhood Eaton halted his little band and sent McAllister and Connell forward together with two friendly Indians to find Leschi and report his position. McAllister was chosen because he could talk in the Indian tongue to some extent and believed himself to be a special friend of Leschi. Connell was selected to accompany McAllister because he owned the ranch on which Leschi and his band were supposed to be encamped.
They went unarmed to show the savages that they had come for a friendly talk. On arriving at Connell's place they met Leschi with perhaps a dozen Indians and had a long wah-wah or friendly talk, in which Leschi still protested his friendship for the whites and denied any thought or intention of joining the hostiles across the mountains. On the return of McAllister, Connell and the two friendly Indians toward the camp where their comrades were awaiting them, they had to pass over or through a deep ugly swamp some two hundred yards in width and thickly grown over with small brush.
While wading through the swamp they were fired upon by Leschi and his band and McAllister, Connell and one friendly Indian were killed the other Indian escaping and giving the alarm to the remainder of Eaton's small company. Soon after Eaton's little band were surrounded by the savages and only saved themselves from total massacre by taking refuge in a small log house near the bank of the Puyallup river.
At night two of Eaton's band crossed the river and made haste toward the settlements which they reached the next day with the dreadful news of Leschi's treachery and of the general purpose among the Indians all over this northwest coast to inaugurate warfare.
Colonel Wright, at Vancouver, had requested Acting Governor Mason to enlist a company of volunteers to assist the regular army in quelling the outbreak east of the mountains and Judge Gilmore Hays, a private citizen of Olympia, a man of high standing in the community, leader of the opposing political party to which Stevens and Mason belonged was commissioned by Mason to recruit and command this company of volunteers. Upon organization the company was mustered into the regular service and joined Colonel Casey's command at Fort Steilacoom.
The troops started across the mountains to the Yakima country and had reached the summit of the mountains when they were overtaken by an express rider, William Tidd, with orders to return, as it would be very dangerous for so small a force of whites to contend against the large army of combined Yakimas and Klickitats that were known to be lying in ambush awaiting the coming of Casey and Hays. A. B. Moses, Dr. Burns, the company surgeon, A. B. Rabbeson, a young lawyer named Miles of Olympia, and one other volunteer whose name I have forgotten got permission from their commander, Captain Hays to accompany the express rider on his return in advance of the main force.
on the afternoon of the day following the murder of McAllister and Connell, Moses and his companions reached Connell's prairie, when they discovered Connell's house, barn, and fences all on fire, and near by the burning ruins stood Leschi with his band of savages. Moses rode fearlessly up to Leschi and asked him what all this burning meant and who set the premises on fire.
Leschi denied all knowledge of its cause or who did it, and again protested his friendly intentions. After a short parley Moses and his party rode on and while going through the same swamp above referred to they were fired upon by Leschi and his band and Moses and Miles were killed and Tidd, the express rider wounded.
Dr. Burns, Rabbeson and the other man made their escape and after going a short distance further, abandoned their horses and took to the woods on foot. By dint of traveling by night and hiding by day they managed to reach the settlements two days later in a deplorable condition. Eaton and his small company of rangers were kept surrounded by the savages until the latter heard of the soldiers' return, when they disappeared in the dense forests and allowed Eaton to escape.
It will be seen from the true account of the attitude of certain leaders among the Indians on the South that, while pretending friendship, they were plotting to join the hostiles; that Leschi and his band had stationed themselves on the only line of communication across the mountain range, at Connell's prairie, the last open space on the west side, to intercept communication, and were engaged in killing or attempting to kill all who passed that way when the opportunity offered, not in open warfare, but by stealth and assassination; yet all the while pretending friendship until the victims could be ambushed and shot in the back.
Moses was shot in the back as were all the others. Colonel A. B. Moses was a warm personal friend of the writer of this; a fine promising young man of high standing in the community in which he lived, a member of the Olympia lodge No 1 of Masons, and his remains were recovered and duly interred by his mourning Masonic brethren.
I cannot refrain from give expression to a righteous indignation against anyone who attempts to make gods of such savages.
Again, he says,"The territorial authorities cherished a particular resentment against Leschi. An unnecessary and expensive war had been caused and somebody must be made responsible. Leschi was chosen for the sacrifice."
The facts are that long before Leschi had surrendered to anyone and while he was still skulking and hiding among the hills and mountains, a civil grand jury had charged him with the murder of Moses and a reward was offered for his apprehension. Of this he was well informed. He knew that he deserved death for his crimes, hence he kept out of sight as long as he well could without starving to death.
There was little treachery in his final capture. That he had friends and sympathizers is not denied. A large fee in money and horses was raised for his defense before the courts and many tricks known to lawyers resorted to to save his neck.
On the day set for the hanging of Leschi, as a last desperate resort, a false charge was filed before a United States commissioner accusing the sheriff of Pierce county with selling liquor to the Indians. This being an offense against United States law, a deputy marshal arrested the sheriff and held him prisoner until the hour had passed in which the hanging should have taken place, and then let the sheriff go free without further trial.
Of course the civil authorities were indignant at the trick. The territorial legislature, then in session, nearly unanimously passed an act transferring the authority to hang Leschi from the sheriff of Pierce County to the sheriff of Thurston county, and when the proper court having jurisdiction again fixed the day for his execution a deputy sheriff from Thurston county did the job. Pierce county at that time was mainly populated by former Hudson Bay company employees and men who had taken Indian wives, many of whom sympathized with the hostiles and had given them aid and shelter so far as they dared to do with safety to themselves. Several of these had been suspects and held as quasi prisoners by the military authorities during the war, for which they nursed a grudge against the people of Olympia especially.
Considerable bitter feeling had been engendered between the people of these two counties by reason of the location of the capital at Olympia instead of Steilacoom. The slight differences between the regular and volunteer military authorities grew out of jealousy as to who should claim the greater honor in suppressing the savages.
Relative to the killing of Quiemulth in Governor Steven's office in the presence of the governor and his wife, and by the way, Quiemulth was not asleep at the time, but was seated between the governor and Mrs. Stevens, watchful, cowering and in great fear of his life, for he knew what he deserved, all I have to say is that while it greatly shocked and displeased the governor, still it was not wholly unexpected for the relatives of the families on White River who had been so cruelly butchered had repeatedly notified the authorities and all parties concerned that they would take vengeance on any and all the savages known to have been engaged in the massacre.
Quiemulth was admittedly at the head of the band that did this bloody death. You will notice that the judge makes no mention of this horrible massacre. A brother of one of the women so savagely butchered was a member of my company during the war, and the awful scene that he looked upon when their bodies were discovered so preyed upon his mind and memory that he was almost insane at times and the poor fellow died from grief soon after the war closed.
Urban East Hicks. East Sound, Washington. Tacoma Ledger. December 26, 1897.