The Shasta Courier. Vol. I. Shasta, Cal., Saturday, July 24, 1852. Whole No. 20.
[4th newspaper column] Our Yreka Correspondence. Indian Difficulties in Siskiyou County — Murder of Calvin Woodman — Engagement with the Indians — Deputy Sheriff Whipple wounded and several Indians killed — Scarcity of Arms in Yreka — Unprotected condition of our Northern Frontier — Handsome conduct of an Indian Chief and his Warriors.
YREKA, July 12, 1852. FRIEND COURIER: our little town has been so quiet that I hardly thought it necessary to write till the present time, and this will be the more interesting from the fact that its contents may possibly give the troops stationed in your neighborhood a change from "their life of elegant ease and luxurious repose" about which you so justly complain. If it be a possible thing to send them up here we can ensure them plenty of work, for you must know that the Indians in this vicinity have declared hostilities.
Their first act was the murder of Mr. Calvin Woodman, a miner, on Scott's Bar. On Friday last, as he was on his way to this place, he came up with two Indians, who, after proceeding with him some distance, shot him from his horse. Intelligence was conveyed to the Lone Ranch, by a Mexican packer, it being the nearest house. A party started immediately to his assistance. After riding about four miles they came up to him. He was still alive and in answer to enquiries stated that he had been shot by two Shasta Indians.
J. D. Cosby, Esq., who was one of the party, dispatched a messenger to this place. A meeting was called at once and a party of eleven men, headed by the Deputy Sheriff, started at three o’clock on Saturday morning for Scott's Valley. They reached the Indian encampment at about ten o'clock. Mr. Deputy Sheriff Whipple went into the encampment and told them he wished the Shasta Indians to return with him to this place. This they peremptorily refused to do, intimating at the same time that they would rather fight. Mr. Whipple then made a sign for assistance which was promptly extended and as the party started across the river the Indians commenced firing at them, wounding Mr. W. slightly in the right hip and killing a mule on which was one of the party. After the first fire the Indians took to the woods. The party succeeded in killing two of their number, and capturing two horses having killed a third.
While the above was being enacted in Scott's Valley a party was raised here who proceeded to a rancheria about three miles from town. At the approach of the whites the Indians fled and the party brought in a number of squaws and children who were kept in confinement until yesterday noon when they were liberated.
A second party started at an early hour yesterday morning for the purpose of capturing the chief of the tribe, if possible, but upon their arrival they found the birds had flown. Our town to-night is in a great state of excitement, news having just been received that two men and a woman had been killed. Upon making enquiry about the matter I learned that some man was robbed by the Indians of his horse and blankets while traveling on the trail a short distance from town, after which he, with some others, started after the Indians and recovered the property after killing two men and a squaw. A report has just reached me that two whites had been killed since dark and that the Indians were collecting in great numbers a few miles below the town. While I am writing the [transcription of this column continues on next page]
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fourteen of his men started in pursuit of the murderers. Well did the little fellows left in charge discharge the duty assigned them, for one of them in attempting to escape was shot dead by a brother of John's about twelve years of age. The others effected their escape during the night. I think John and his men deserve much more than praise from the Government.
I must close, promising to write again in a few days. Yours truly, FENELON.
P. S. — Calvin Woodman, the man who was murdered, was from Portland, Maine, where I learn he has a brother residing. At midnight the war party returned, not finding any Indians at the place designated by their informant. Enclosed please find proceedings of the meeting held last night.
(As the purposes of the meeting referred to are fully set forth in the above letter the publication of the proceedings at length is deemed unnecessary. Messrs. Cummings and Berry, officers of the meeting, will accept our thanks for the report forwarded by our correspondent. ED. COURIER.)
Scott Valley Correspondence. (A letter has been received from our Scott Valley correspondent in relation to the murder of Mr. Calvin Woodman and the steps taken by the citizens of Yreka and Scott Valley subsequent to his death. The greater portion of the news contained in this letter has been anticipated by our Yreka correspondent. We present, however a few extracts. — ED. COURIER.)
The Scott Valley tribe of Indians is peaceable and has not been known to steal since I came to this part of the country; while the surrounding tribes, the Shasta, Salmon, Klamath and Rogue river Indians have been committing depredations on the whites and their property, ever since the miners commenced prospecting this country for gold.
On the evening of the 8th instant Mr. Bruco lost three animals near an Indian rancheria, while passing from Quartz Valley to his ranch.
One year ago there were any quantity of rifles in Yreka, but now scarcely a gun of any kind can be found. The largest number of these guns have been traded off with the Indians for squaws, &c. My opinion is that at the present time the Shasta Valley Indians have more guns and ammunition than the citizens of Yreka.
Where these difficulties will end time alone will determine. To-day the Shasta Indians presented themselves at the ranch of William Evans and threatened to burn down every ranch house in the valley. Mr. Evans was afraid to stop another hour in his house and he accordingly drove his herd of animals over to Shasta Valley. Since I commenced writing Mr. Steele has left this place for Yreka, accompanied by a number of brave men, with the determination of compelling the Indians to deliver up the murderers of Mr. Woodman or of exterminating the whole Shasta tribe. More soon. Respectfully, Yours, KENDALL.
[4th newspaper column, transcribed to this point on previous page] below the town. While I am writing the citizens are gathering a party to go and dislodge them. Arms of all kinds are in requisition. Speaking of arms, I am of opinion that there is no mining town in California of its size so destitute of firearms as Yreka. The Indians appear to be well armed from the fact that there have been persons in this place who have been so thoughtless as to trade their rifles to the Indians for horses and women.
The time has now arrived when in my opinion it is necessary that the Indians should be taught a severe lesson. Pacific measures have been tried long enough and without avail. Depredations have been committed to such an extent that now forbearance ceases to be a virtue, and they should be made to feel the strength of the white man, and it will assuredly be the case, for now our citizens have been aroused and are determined to bring them to terms or exterminate them.
It is a crying evil that this far off section of the State should be so neglected. Here we are in the midst of hoards of relentless savages, exposed to every danger, whilst those whose duty it is to defend our frontiers are reveling in "luxurious repose," in or near our more populous cities or else squandering their time in debaucheries. If Gen. Hitchcock would take the trouble to visit this section of the State I will assure him that he will here find a location where troops would be of great service.
While on this subject I will, in justice to a small party of Indians, (located in Scott's Valley headed by a chief called John,) state that, throughout all this disturbance, he and his party have acted up to the treaty made with Col. McKee, and more than that, he with his little band of warriors, is ready and willing to do battle on the side of the whites. As an evidence of it, some of his party have just reached here bringing with them one of the chiefs of the Shastas, and they now express their willingness to go with the party tonight and fight if necessary. John and his little band of warriors, on the day of the murder, arrested the chief men of the Shastas and placed them under guard of the youths of his tribe with instructions to shoot any who should attempt to escape, while he and [transcription continues on previous page, 5th column]
[left margin] The Editor is a rabid locofoco, anxious to make capital for his party —
THE SHASTA COURIER. SATURDAY MORNING, JULY 24.
[1st column, 3rd heading] Indian Difficulties in the Northern Counties. --- Official Correspondence.
On the first page of to-day's paper will be found letters from Yreka and Scott Valley, giving an account of late harassing difficulties with some of the Indian tribes of Siskiyou county. Murders by the Indians are of frequent occurrence in Klamath county, and one of a recent date has been made the subject of correspondence between Gov. Bigler and Gen Hitchcock. This correspondence will be found on our fourth page.
The neglect with which California has been treated by the General Government has long since become a by-word, and in no respect has it been so inexcusable and culpable as in her mis-management of our Indian affairs. It cannot be pretended that the Government at Washington, or her officers on the Pacific coast, are ignorant of our necessities in this respect. The harassing relation existing between the whites and Indians has been the constant theme of newspaper discussion and comment.
The policy which has been pursued towards the Indians in California has been worse than foolish. It betrays a singular ignorance of the Indian character generally, and especially of that relentless and faithless disposition which has ever been a striking characteristic of the Indian tribes on this coast. It is idle to talk of treating with them and relying upon their word. They have not the slightest conception of the feeling of gratitude and are equally blind to the obligations of treaties. The policy pursued by the Government Officers has consequently resulted in the death of many good men, and has induced a condition of affairs which must necessarily result in the speedy extermination or banishment of the Northern Indians.
It is to be hoped that those in authority will no longer regard the Indian difficulties in the northern counties with indifference. The very small force which has been placed at the disposal of the officer commanding the Pacific Division of the United States Army has rendered that gentlemen quite as careless in regard to California interests as the government he represents. The number of effective men in this division of the army, we are informed, does not exceed one thousand. One regiment of infantry, numbering about four hundred men, four companies of artillery and two of dragoons, we believe, comprise the entire force.
Small and inadequate as this force is we feel assured that it could be disposed of in such a manner as would be of immense [transcription of this column continues on next page]
[4th column, 3rd heading] FROM YREKA AND SCOTT VALLEY.— On the first page of to-day's paper will be found interesting correspondence from Yreka and Scott Valley.
Dr. Ironside, who arrived in this place on Thursday last, has furnished us with some additional information concerning the late difficulties with the Indians in Siskiyou county. On Friday the 16th, a large party of Indians assembled near Yreka. Their assembling had been previously rumored, and as it was with hostile intent, the citizens took them prisoners and kept them well guarded. On Saturday Ben Wright and his Indians succeeded in capturing the murderers of Woodman. The murderers were found in the Klamath mountains, and after being taken confessed their crime. One of them was of the Shasta and the other was of the Moreduck [Modoc] tribe. The prisoners were set at liberty as soon as the murderers were brought in. Ere this the two Indians have doubtless been tried and hung.
Dr. Ironside was on his way to San Francisco where business imperatively calls him. He will remain there but a short time, after which he will either return to Yreka or visit New York. In either event we wish him a pleasant and successful trip.
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such a manner as would be of immense service to the people of the State. Instead of being stationed in places where the Indians are never troublesome they should be sent to posts of danger where they would have an opportunity of receiving and repelling the savage attacks now visited upon defenseless citizens. If the American soldier has not degenerated of late he would embrace this change of policy with enthusiasm. Small companies might be sent to those localities where depredations are most frequently committed, and subalterns might be empowered to change their station as often as the necessities of the neighborhood might require. This would be hard service but it would free the soldier from the disease induced by an indolent life at luxurious posts, while it would prevent much robbery and bloodshed.
The citizens of the North have been, so far, entirely dependent upon their own resources for protection. If, however, a body of soldiery should be sent to the place of chief disturbance we are assured that citizens will gladly surrender the serious responsibility which has been resting upon their shoulders into the hands of competent officers. Such assistance will be given them by independent citizens as will render their services invaluable should they be placed in a proper position and manifest a disposition to do their duty.
[3rd column, 4th heading] SHOT BY AN INDIAN.— On Wednesday night last a man who was sleeping on his blankets in the suburbs of our town, was shot by an Indian. His companion, Mr. Wood, was not hit. The arrow took effect in the side, but was prevented from penetrating the vitals by a rib. After the wound was received diligent search was made for the savage, but he could no where be found.
The Policy of the Indian Commissioners.
Having been decided and firm supporters of the policy of the California Indian Commissioners, in assigning reservations to the Indians within the State, it is with much regret that we find they have involved themselves deeply by the exercise of powers neither authorized by law, nor sanctioned by the necessities or equities of the case. The information which has been laid before the public, and has met our eyes, is not of a detailed and specific character, but it comes from such a source that its accuracy must be undeniable. The Hon. L. Lea, the Commissioner in charge of the Indian bureau at Washington, in reply to a resolution of inquiry from the U.S. Senate, transmits an answer to the Secretary of the Interior, from which the following brief extracts are made:
"I have the honor to transmit, herewith, copies of sundry communications from the Indian agents in California, from which it appears that they have contracted debts to the amount of $716,394.79; also, copy of a communication from the late sub-agent, (Johnson,) showing that he, too, has contracted liabilities to a considerable extent. The precise amount is not given, but it is believed to be upwards of $50,000, as I understand that his drafts to near that amount have already been presented.
"A large portion of the debts above referred to are in the form of drafts drawn by the agents on the Secretary of the Interior, and as they have not been presented to this office, I am not able to state the amount to which they have been protested.
"It may also be proper to state, that in addition to the foregoing liabilities, a claim has been presented by Dr. W. M. Ryer, to the amount of $13,402, for his services in vaccinating Indians in California, the particulars of which are set forth in papers, copies of which are herewith submitted."
The act creating three Indian Commissioners for California was passed during the session of 1849-50. At the same session $30,000 was appropriated for the purposes of the commission. At the session of 1850-51, $25,000 more was appropriated; making, in all, the sum of $55,000. And thus, upon a cash basis of $55,000, a debt of nearly $800,000 has been created.
At the first glance it is impossible to believe that one has read aright the sum stated. But a closer inspection proves conclusively that that enormous amount of money has been expended by the commissioners, and that they have given drafts upon the Government to that amount, which have been dishonored.
Now, although we have supported the action of the commissioners in placing the Indians upon reservations, and though we might have been disposed to overlook a little stretch of authority on the part of the commissioners in the face of the meagre appropriation of Congress, we should not like to have it supposed that we can even tacitly assent to such extraordinary proceedings as appear to have taken place. Nor are we alone in this. Mr. McKee, one of the three commissioners, has taken especial pains to wash his hands of the whole affair by declaring that he has kept his expenditures within the bounds of legal appropriations, thus throwing the whole weight of the transactions upon Messrs. Barber and Wozencraft, the other two commissioners.
On the other hand, we are unwilling to believe that the charges of collusion and fraud on the part of the two Commissioners above named, have the slightest foundation in truth. But it cannot be concealed that, in the most charitable point of view, there has been the greatest lack of prudence and judgment on their part. How any reasonable men could ever think of expending such an amount of money on contracts for beef and other supplies for California Indians is scarcely conceivable by an ordinary comprehension.
But, it is not the useless expenditure of the money to which the great objection lies, bad as is that feature of the affair. The result of this shocking mismanagement, no matter from what cause it may have proceeded, will be imminently dangerous, if not utterly destructive, to the present system. The arguments which have been urged against the abstract policy, will receive an accelerated force from this unusual display of incompetency, and we may possibly be forced to install a new system with all its delays, dangers and expenditures. The consequences resulting to our State may be of incalculable disadvantage, retarding materially its permanent advance, and costing it much treasure and many valuable lives. We trust such anticipations will not be realized, and that we shall have no such unfortunate resons for bewailing the misguided course of our Indian Commissioners.