Reminiscences of a Pioneer
Colonel William Thompson
Part 3 out of 3
He was coming in ahead of the Indians and would have been in a position,
with the troops under Howard, to surround and destroy the savages. He
was, however, halted by orders from Howard and turned back to the
Malheur Reservation. In justice to Gen. Howard it should be said that he
claimed his aide misunderstood the orders, and caused the fatal blunder.
But be that as it may, it saved the savages from annihilation or
surrender and cost the lives of a large number of citizens throughout
From John Day Valley, Gen. Howard continued to herd the savages,
following with his ox teams and his army of road makers, while the enemy
were sweeping a belt thirty miles in width through the State and
spreading death and desolation in their path. Many skirmishes took place
before the Indians reached the Umatilla Reservation. Here Gen. Miles
encountered them and in the battle that followed completely routed them.
Disheartened and losing confidence in the good medicine of their
medicine men, the savages split up, a portion going on to Snake River
and the Columbia, while the Stein's mountain and Nevada Piutes doubled
on their tracks and started back, for a greater portion of the way over
the road they had come. This again left the settlers exposed to butchery
and plunder. The military had followed the main bands towards the
Columbia and Snake Rivers. One band attempted to cross the Columbia by
swimming their stock. A steamer had been despatched up the river armed
with gattling guns and protected by a force of soldiers. While the vast
herd of horses and Indians were struggling in the water the boat came in
sight and opened with the gatlings. Some of the Indians succeeded in
crossing, but most of them were driven back, and the carcasses of
Indians and horses floated down the river.
Snake Uprising in Eastern Oregon.
While these events were transpiring all eastern Oregon was wild with
excitement. There were no telegraphs through the country in those days,
if we except a line running up the Columbia from The Dalles to Pendleton
and Walla Walla. The wildest stories were set afloat, which of course
lost nothing by repetition.
When the first news of the outbreak reached me I was doing jury duty in
Judge L. L. McArthur's Court at The Dalles. I was engaged in the cattle
business in what is now Crook County, and my ranch was 95 miles to the
south of The Dalles. My family had been left on the ranch which was
being cared for by a couple of young men in my employ. My brother,
Senator S. G. Thompson also lived a couple of miles from my ranch.
On coming down stairs at the Umatilla House one morning I met Judge
McArthur who expressed surprise at finding me yet in town, saying he
supposed I and my friends were well on our way home. I replied that I
was waiting the good pleasure of the Court.
"Why, man, have you not heard the news?" replied the Judge.
"I have heard no news," I replied, but seeing that the Judge was in
earnest asked to what news he referred.
Judge McArthur then told me in a few excited words of the outbreak of
the Bannocks, declaring that in all probability the Indians would reach
my section before I could get there.
I waited to hear no more, and running across the street to the livery
stable ordered my team harnessed. While I was waiting three young men,
one of them being a lawyer named G. W. Barnes, and with whom I had come
to The Dalles in a two-seated rig, came up. While the team was being
harnessed we secured from a store several hundred rounds of Winchester
ammunition, besides a couple of needle guns and some ammunition which we
borrowed. One of my friends ran across to the hotel and returned with
some provisions for breakfast. We had no time to wait. Other thoughts
occupied our minds. We then began the home run, ninety-six miles away. I
insisted on driving and nursed the team as best I could, giving them
plenty of time on the uphill grade, but sending them along at a furious
pate on level ground and down hill. From The Dalles to Shear's bridge on
the Deschutes we made a record run. There we changed horses, the
generous owner returning not a word when our urgent errand was told.
Mrs. Shear also kindly gave us some food to eat on the road. By 1
o'clock we were at Bakeoven, 45 miles from The Dalles. Here we again
changed horses, and secured some food, which we literally ate on the
Our next lap was a long one and it was necessary to save our horses as
much as possible. But we had a good team and made good progress, and
when night closed in we were more than 25 miles from home. We finally
reached the ranch of old man Crisp, whose son was most savagely
butchered a few days later by the Indians at Fox Valley.
My ranch was reached about midnight, possibly a little later, and I
found, to my inexpressible relief, that all was well. My wife hastily
prepared a cup of coffee for my companions and set them a lunch. While
they were eating the young men harnessed up another team, with which Mr.
Barnes and companions reached Prineville some time after daylight.
Almost the first word spoken by my wife to me after I had asked the
news, was that Capt. George, Chief of the Warm Spring Indians, had been
there and enquiring for me. I asked her where he had gone. She replied
that he had come there in the evening, and she had ordered supper for
him and that he had put up his horse and was sleeping at the barn. The
news was a relief to me, you may be sure.
After my friends had gone and while my wife and I were discussing the
news, George walked in. He shook hands with me and I gave him a seat. I
knew he had news for me. But an Indian always takes his time. After he
had sat for some time, and consumed with anxiety to know the nature of
his visit, I said:
"Well, George, what is it?"
"Have you heard about the Snakes," was his instant answer.
"Yes, I heard about it at The Dalles, and that was what brought me home.
But what do you think about it?"
"I do not believe the Snakes will come this way, but, if they do I will
know it in plenty of time. I will then bring lots of Indians over from
the reservation, we will gather up your horses, all of Georges' horses
and all of Maupin's horses and will take them and all the women and
children to the reservation and then we will go out and fight Snakes and
That was George's idea of war. It mattered not to him if everybody else
was killed, so long as the property and families of his friends were
safe. The conversation, of course, was carried on in the Chinook
language, which is a mixture of the Wasco tongue and Hudson Bay French.
Captain George was, as I have stated, Chief of the Warm Spring and Wasco
Indians. He was one of the most perfect specimens of physical manhood I
have ever beheld. He was proud as Lucifer and would scorn to tell a lie.
In fact, he was one of the really good live Indians I have known. Years
after, when residing at Prineville, my front yard was the favorite
camping place of Capt. George, and my stables were always open for the
accommodation of his horses. He was my friend, and as he expressed it,
"we are chiefs."
Poor old George! He has long since been gathered to his fathers. I do
not know that I shall meet George in the happy hunting grounds. But this
I know, I will meet no truer friend or braver or nobler soul than that
of this brave old Indian.
The next morning after my arrival at home George went up to see my
brother, and from there went on to the ranch of Mr. Maupin. So far as I
was concerned, after my talk with George, I felt perfectly at ease. I
knew he would do as he had promised. But the whole country was in panic
and it could not be stayed. Some had abandoned their farms and fled
across the mountains to the Willamette Valley, while others were getting
ready to go. I allayed the fears of immediate neighbors as far as
possible by selecting the ranch of Dr. Baldwin as a rallying point in
case of danger. But each hour, almost, would bring a new story of danger
and a new cause for a stampede. Some of my neighbors buried their
effects and prepared to flee. In the midst of this word reached me one
afternoon that the people at Prineville were forting up, and that a
company had been organized to go out to meet the Indians. Mounting good
horses my brother and I set out for Prineville, nearly thirty miles
away. We arrived there about dark after a hard ride, but it did not take
me long to size up the situation. The "company" was worse panic stricken
than the people, and the fort that had been started was worse than a
trap. It was absolutely worthless for defense. Everything, however, was
confusion and one scare followed another in rapid succession.
I tried to get a few, men to go with me on a short scouting expedition
to discover if the Indians were coming that way. Not one could be found
who would volunteer to go. I then returned home and taking one of my
young men and a younger brother, struck out for the old Indian trail
leading along the crest of the McKay Mountains. After riding some
distance, keeping well in the timber, we met two white men who were
making their way through the mountains. They told us that the Indians
had crossed the John Day at the Cummins ranch, of the fight Jim Clark
had at Murderers Creek and the death of young Aldridge. As it was now
useless to proceed any further we turned back, and reached Prineville
next day. All the ranches were deserted, but we had no difficulty in
obtaining food for ourselves and horses.
Bannocks Double on their Tracks.
Matters now settled down, the scare was over and ranchers returned to
their homes and began repairing damages. Fences that had been thrown
down that stock might help themselves were repaired that as much as
possible of the crops might be saved. I returned to my ranch and was
busy with haying and harvest when another report reached us, borne on
the wings of the wind, that the Bannocks had doubled on their tracks and
were scattering death and destruction in their path. The last scare, if
possible, was worse than the first. About the same time the Governor
ordered Gen. M. V. Brown with the Linn county company, under Capt.
Humphrey, to hasten to our aid. This was the only organized troop of the
militia available for immediate service, and without loss of time they
crossed the Cascade Mountains and arrived at Prineville about the 10th
The company was a magnificent body of men, and represented the best
families of Linn County. One of the privates was the son of a former
United States Senator, while others were young men of superior
attainments--law and medical students. George Chamberlain, present
United States Senator from Oregon, was first sergeant of the company,
Capt. Humphrey was a veteran of the Civil War, commanding a company in
many sanguinary battles. Gen. Brown had seen service during the war
between the States, but he, and all were ignorant of Indian warfare. On
his arrival at Prineville Gen. Brown sent a courier to my ranch with a
letter urging me to join the expedition. My business affairs had been
sadly neglected during the past three months, and I was loth to start
out on an expedition, the end of which was impossible to foresee. I
however went to Prineville and had a consultation with him. Gen. Brown
was exceedingly desirous that I should go with him. He called my
attention to personal obligations of friendship due from me to him. That
settled it and I told him I would go. He authorized me to enlist 15 men
as scouts and placed me in command. The number were readily found, they
providing their own horses, arms, ammunition and blankets. Provisions
were supplied from the commissary.
In Humphrey's company there was a character known as "Warm Spring
Johnny," whom I shall have occasion to mention further on. He was
transferred to my contingent by order of Gen. Brown, as it was believed
he would be of service to me. The start was made from Prineville the
next day, our course leading toward the head of Crooked River and the
South John Day.
On the evening of the second day we arrived at Watson Springs where we
camped for the night. Guards had been placed around the camp and I had
laid down on my saddle blanket to rest when Warm Spring Johnny came and
sat beside me. He then told me that at this place he saw his first white
man. Going into the history of his life--he was then a man about 38
years of age--he told me the Snake Indians had captured him when he was a
mere child--so far back that he had no recollections of his parents or
of the circumstances of his capture. He was raised by the Snakes, and
always supposed he was an Indian like the rest of them, only that his
skin was white. He did not attempt to account for this difference--he
was an Indian and that was all he knew.
In the spring of 1868, Lieut. Watson arrived and camped at the spring
which was forever to bear his name. Here the rim rock circles around the
head of the spring in the form a half wheel. Willows had grown up along
the edge of the stream that flowed out into the dun sage brush plain.
Into this trap Lieut. Watson marched his men and camped. Evidently he
felt secure, as no Indians had been seen, besides the Warm Spring scouts
were out scouring the country. Probably not a guard or picket was placed
about the camp. They had been in camp an hour, and were busily engaged
in cooking their meal when from the rim of the bluff on three sides a
host of tufted warriors poured a shower of arrows and bullets upon them.
Lieut. Watson was killed with several of his men at the first fire,
while a number were wounded. The soldiers for protection took to the
willows and defended themselves as best they could. But the Snakes had
overlooked the Warm Spring scouts, who, hearing the firing, rushed to
the rescue and attacking the Snakes in the rear, which was open ground,
routed them with the loss of several warriors killed and half a dozen
Among the latter was Warm Spring Johnny. He was taken to the officer who
had succeeded Watson in command. Great surprise was expressed at seeing
a white man with the Snakes and the soldiers were for making short work
of the "white renegade." But it soon became evident that he was as much
a wild Indian as any of them, and his youth, about 18, making in his
favor he was turned over to the Warm Spring captors to guard, along with
the other captives. They were all taken down the little branch a few
hundred yards and securely bound and tied to a stunted juniper tree.
During the night the Warm Springs indulged in a war dance, each lucky
warrior flourishing the scalp he had taken. Along past midnight all the
captives excepting Johnny were securely bound to the juniper with green
rawhide, a mass of sage brush collected and the captives roasted alive.
Johnny told me that every moment he expected to be served in the same
manner, and could not understand why his comrades were burned while he
was saved. He said he supposed that his skin being white they had
reserved him for some particular occasion. I asked him if the soldiers
knew that the captives were being burned. He replied that he learned
afterwards that the Indians told the soldiers they had all escaped
except the white one. The probabilities are that the soldiers were too
busy with their own troubles to pay any attention to what was going on
in the camp of their allies.
Johnny could speak fairly good English, but to all intents and purposes
he was as much of an Indian as any of his copper colored friends. He was
adopted into the Warm Springs tribe and remained with them for a number
of years, but marrying a squaw from another tribe moved to the
Willamette Valley, where he lived and died an Indian. He was almost
invaluable to me because of his knowledge of the ways and signs of the
Snakes. But aside from this he was absolutely useless as he was an
arrant coward and could not be depended on when danger threatened.
The next day we moved south and after a rapid march reached the Elkins
ranch on Grindstone, a tributary of Crooked River. It was known that the
Indians were returning practically by the same route they had previously
traveled, and our duty was to prevent raids from the main body and
protect the property of the settlers as far as was possible.
First gaining permission from Gen. Brown, with my scouts and four
volunteers, I started out to discover the camp of the Indians, which
from the lay of the country, I thought likely would be at the head of
Buck Creek, at a spring in the edge of the timber. About 2 o'clock we
arrived at the vicinity of the supposed camp of the Indians, and taking
an elevated position, patiently waited for dawn. Finally the gray dawn
began to peep over the crest of the eastern mountains, and leading our
horses we moved closer. When daylight finally arrived we were within a
hundred yards of the spring, but nowhere was there a sign of life.
Assuring ourselves that the renegades had not passed that point, and
that they were further back, we started to meet them, meantime keeping a
careful lookout ahead. We continued on to Crooked River and despairing
of finding or overtaking them, we retraced our steps to camp, arriving
there about dark after riding 75 or 80 miles.
The next day it was determined to send a strong detachment into the
rough brakes of the South John Day. Accordingly Capt. Humphrey detailed
36 men and I joined him with the scouts. We were absent three days and
returned to camp without encountering or seeing any signs of Indians.
After resting our horses one day we again struck out, this time going
farther north in the direction of Murderers Creek. The country was
indescribably rough, and our first night's camp was at the John Day at a
point on the trail made by Gen. Howard when he was herding the Indians
north. About 10 o'clock one of the men from a picket came in and told me
that the Indians were signaling from two sides of the camp. I walked
down to where Capt. Humphrey was sleeping and woke him up. We watched
the signaling for a few minutes and then sent for Warm Spring Johnny. He
said they were signaling that we were a strong party of soldiers and had
come from the south. He then explained how the flashes were made. A pile
of dry grass was collected and then surrounded by blankets. The grass
was then fired and when the blaze was brightest the blankets on one side
was quickly raised and again lowered, giving out a bright flash light.
I advised Capt. Humphrey to hold his men in readiness for a daylight
attack, feeling certain nothing would be attempted until just at the
break of day. We knew, however, they were not far distant and that great
care was necessary. After discussing the situation with Capt. Humphrey
it was determined to go on as far as Murderers Creek, striking the
stream at the Stewart ranch. As we passed over the intervening space we
saw abundant evidence of the presence of Indians and proceeded across
the bald hills with caution. On the hill overlooking the Stewart ranch
we saw quite a commotion, a cloud of dust raising and pointing back
towards a deep, rocky, precipitous canyon. Believing the Indians were
beating a retreat, we rode forward at the gallop, but arrived only in
time to see the last of them disappear in the mouth of the canyon.
On the open ground at the mouth of the canyon we halted. The canyon
presented a most forbidding appearance, and to follow an enemy of
unknown strength into its gloomy depths was to court disaster. The
canyon into which the Indians had been driven was steep, rocky and with
the sides covered with brush, while the ridge was covered with
scattering pines back to the timber line where rose the jagged, serrated
peaks of the extreme summit of the mountain. After taking a careful view
of all the surroundings we retreated down the mountain pretty much as we
had ascended it.
Capt. Humphrey agreed with me that we did not have men enough to attack
the Indians in such a stronghold. There remained nothing but to return
to the Stewart ranch and go into camp for the night. While returning we
decided to hold the Indians in the canyon if possible and send a courier
back to Gen. Brown for reinforcements. Accordingly Ad. Marcks was
selected for the night trip. He was familiar with the country and
undertook the night ride without hesitation. That night a strong guard
was kept around the camp, and daylight came without incident worthy of
It was then decided to circle the canyon into which we had driven the
Indians on the previous day. We made the start soon after sun-up, taking
a course to the east of the point ascended the day before, and which
would enable us to ascend with our horses. We reached the summit of the
first steep raise and were rewarded by seeing three scouts disappear in
the canyon. We gave chase and fired a few shots from the rifles of the
scouts which had no other effect than to cause them to lean a little
further forward on their horses and go a little faster. As we passed up
the ridge we could see the smoke from the camp fires of the Indians
coming out of the canyon. The camp was evidently several hundred yards
long and indicated they were in considerable force. Nearing the timber
line, the pines became very thick, in fact so dense that we could force
our horses through with difficulty. My scouts were a couple of hundreds
yards in advance, and as we burst out of the brush we came upon the
horse herd guarded by four Indians. Taking in the situation at a glance,
I put spurs to my horse, and calling to the men to come on, made a dash
to cut them off from the canyon down which the herders were endeavoring
to force them. We made no attempt to use our rifles, but drawing our
revolvers opened fire on the scurrying herders. It was quite a mix-up,
but we managed to capture nineteen head of good horses. After the fray I
looked around for the first time and discovered that instead of all, but
one man had followed me, that was the young boy, Eugene Jones. The
others had taken to trees, one going back to hurry up Capt. Humphrey.
Had they all followed as did the boy we would have captured every horse
and probably have got the herders as well. Descending the ridge on the
west side we crossed the trail made by the Indians when coming into the
At 2 o'clock the next morning I again started to circle the camp with
twenty men, leaving Capt. Humphrey at the Stewart ranch. I ascended the
mountain farther to the east than the day before and reached the timber
line at daylight. A hundred yards or more from the timber line was a
clump of stunted trees. I determined to dismount my men and rest our
horses. As we were dismounting one of the scouts, Al Igo, asked
permission to ride up the ridge a ways and get a better look at the
country. I gave consent but cautioned him not to venture too far. As
soon as the girths of our saddles were loosened and guards placed around
I threw myself on the grass and was asleep in five minutes. But my sleep
was of short duration, for Igo came dashing back, calling, "get out of
here, we are being surrounded." He said he had counted eighty odd
warriors on one side and fifteen on the other.
We lost no time, allow me to assure you, in "getting out of there." A
quarter of a mile above us, and about the same distance from the timber
line on every side, were three jagged peaks, and not more than twenty
yards apart. Here I stationed the men, first dismounting them and
securing our horses among the rocks so as to shield them from the
bullets of the Indians. I felt sure that we were going to have a fight,
and against heavy odds. But the rocks made a splendid fort, and I
explained to the men that if they would save their ammunition and not
get excited we could stand off all the Indians west of the Rocky
mountains. After talking to them I took two men, Charley Long and a
young man named Armstrong, two of the best shots in the company, and
crawled down through the grass about 150 yards to another pile of rocks.
I calculated that if I did not hold that point the Indians could unseen
reach it and pour a deadly fire into our position above. Besides I had
hopes of getting some of them when they came to the edge of the timber.
We had reached the position but a few minutes when two rode out of the
timber to our left and about 400 yards away. The boys wanted to fire,
but I held them back telling them that we would get surer shots by not
disclosing our position. We could see them watching the men in the rocks
above, and soon they turned and rode straight towards us, all the while
watching the men in the rocks. When within 100, yards I told the men to
take deliberate aim and we would fire together. I pulled on the trigger
of my needle gun until I could feel it give. But something told me not
to fire and I told the men to wait. On they came, and again we drew
deadly beads on the unsuspecting horsemen, but there was an undefinable
something that told me not to fire. When they had come within thirty
yards we discovered they were white men. We rose up out of the rocks and
grass and when they came up I discovered that one of them was an old
friend, Warren Cassner, from John Day Valley. We also discovered for the
first time that the sun was in total eclipse. Everything looked dark,
and they had taken us for Indians and we had came within a hairs breadth
of sending them into eternity under the same false impression. When I
saw how near I had come to killing my friend I was all in a tremble.
The two men belonged to a company of 125 men raised in John Day Valley
and Canyon City and were pursuing a large band of Indians that had come
in the night before. They made a trail as broad as a wagon road and
evidently numbered a hundred or more warriors. Joined with those we had
been watching they constituted quite a force and would evidently put up
a stiff fight. We returned with the John Day men to the Stewart ranch,
and Gen. Brown having arrived during the day, our forces numbered full
250 men, and all full of fight. That night plans were discussed for the
coming attack. I favored dividing our forces and attacking them from
both sides of the canyon. In this, however, I was overruled and all was
arranged for a combined attack on the Indian position from the west
side. It was arranged that I should start at 2 o'clock with 25 men,
circle the west side of the camp, and if the Indians had slipped out
during the night I was to follow and send back a messenger to the main
command. That there might be no mistake as to the course we should take
in the morning, I pointed to the canyon in which the Indians were
encamped and the ridge up which we would go.
Another Attack that Miscarried.
Everything was in readiness. Two hundred rounds of ammunition was
distributed to the men, and all were in high glee at the prospect of
being able to revenge the cruel murder of friends and neighbors.
At 2 o'clock we were roused by the guards. Horses were quickly saddled
and after a meal of bread, meat and coffee we mounted and filed out of
camp. Besides the scouts I had ten men belonging to the John Day
volunteers. As daylight began to peep over the mountain tops we reached
the head of the canyon in which the Indians were encamped. We had kept a
close lookout for any signs of the Indians abandoning the canyon but
found none. There could be no question as to their whereabouts--not
more than a mile below us.
We halted here and engaged in a discussion as to the advisability of
going around to the west side of the canyon, and when the attack began
to open on them from that side. The John Day men were decidedly in favor
of the move. But Gen. Brown had especially requested that I should be
with the main force when the fight began, and I must return and meet
him. It was finally arranged that I should return, taking one man with
me, while the others should go down the west side of the canyon.
Accordingly I selected the boy Eugene Jones and we started back. It was
arranged that the main force should follow me up the mountain within an
hour after I left camp, and I expected to meet them about the time the
attack began. I did not consider it as being particularly hazardous, as
they could not be very far away. We rode at the gallop, expecting every
moment to hear the report of the opening guns. It was broad daylight now
and we sped on as fast as our horses could carry us. But nothing could
be seen or heard of the command. Our situation was now serious in the
extreme. We passed within 600 yards of the Indian camp and could see the
smoke curling up out of the canyon. But the only alternative that
presented itself to us was to go ahead as we should certainly meet the
troops within a short distance. As a matter of fact we were "so far
stepped in that to retreat were worse than going o'er." On and on we
sped until the brow of the mountain was reached overlooking Murderers
Creek Valley, and nowhere could we get sight of man or beast. "What does
it mean?" These were the questions repeated one with the other. We
finally concluded that the Indians had slipped out behind us, or that we
had overlooked their trail, and that Gen. Brown finding it had started
Descending the mountain we struck across the valley and at or near the
creek we found the trail of the command. It was easy to distinguish the
trail as our men rode shod horses while the Indian ponies were
bare-footed. Picking up the trail we rode as fast as the condition of
our tired horses would permit. About four miles from where we struck the
trail we found the carcass of one of our pack mules. We at first thought
there had been a skirmish and that the mule had been killed. An
examination, however, showed us that the mule had fallen over an
embankment and broken his neck. Following a well beaten trail we did not
discover that the command had left it until we had gone some two or
three miles past the carcass of the dead mule. We therefore began to
retrace our steps. It should be understood that the course taken by the
command was due east, at right angles to that which they should have
taken in following me in the morning. Returning, we carefully examined
each side of the trail in order to discover where it had been left. We
finally came back to the carcass of the dead mule. We knew they had been
there, but what had become of them? Eugene suggested that they had "had
an extra big scare and had taken to wing."
While we were looking for the trail six of the men from whom we had
separated in the morning rode up. They were as much bewildered as I. In
fact, I could not account for the actions of the command except that
there was rank, craven cowardice somewhere, and the language I used was
freely punctuated with adjectives not fit for print. After a long search
we discovered where they had left the trail. They had followed a shell
rock ridge for a quarter of a mile, probably, as some of the men
suggested, to hide their trail for fear the Indians would follow them.
The course was now due north. This they kept until reaching the summit,
when they again turned west. We followed on as fast as the jaded
condition of our horses would permit, until I discovered pony tracks
following behind. Keeping a sharp lookout, however, we continued on
until we came to where one of the Indians had dismounted, the imprint of
his moccasin being clearly outlined in the dust. This presented a new
difficulty, and we now understood why they had not picked us off in the
morning. They were entrenched and were waiting to be attacked, but
seeing the main force turn tail, the hunted had turned hunters.
To follow the trail further appeared madness, and we turned down the
mountain, keeping in the thick cover. I concluded the command would
simply circle the camp and return to the Stewart ranch that night.
Accordingly we bent our course so as to strike the head of the valley,
which we reached at sundown, but nowhere could we discover the presence
of man or beast. We waited until dark and then led our horses up through
the willows lining the banks of the creek, and finding an open space
picketed our horses, and leaving a guard of two men, laid down to sleep.
I told the boy Eugene to wake me up and I would stand guard, but he
failed to do so, saying he was not as tired as I and stood both guards.
At daylight we again saddled up and began a search for the command. We
had eaten nothing since 2 o'clock on the previous morning and began to
feel keenly the effects of hunger. All that day we wandered through the
mountains, returning to our hiding place in the willows of the night
before. At daylight I wrote a note and left it at the Stewart ranch and
then determined to reach John Day Valley. Food we must have, and we knew
we could find something there. Striking a course through the mountains
we reached the Cummins ranch at 4 o'clock that day. We had now been
without food for 62 hours, and from that day to this I could never bear
to see anything hungry--man or beast. Here we found Gen. Brown with
most of his command enjoying their ease. Some kind ladies at the house,
learning our condition, quickly set us some food, mostly soups and
articles of light diet.
In explanation of his remarkable course, Gen. Brown declared he was
misled by the John Day volunteers, while they in turn laid the blame on
Gen. Brown. I was furious over the whole shameful affair and took no
pains to conceal my disgust. Capt. Humphrey told me that he knew they
were going in the wrong direction, and told Brown so, but the latter
said Lieut. Angel was acting as guide and that they would follow him,
and on the head of that officer the blame finally rested.
This incident and others led next day to the enforced resignation of
Lieutenant Angel and the election of George Chamberlain as his
From the Cummins ranch we went to Canyon City for supplies, and from
there to Bear Valley, on the mountain to the west, and on the road
leading to Camp Harney. After resting our horses for a day, Gen. Brown
and I, with a small escort, went to Camp Harney hoping to get some news,
and while awaiting the return of Chamberlain. At Camp Harney a small
force of regulars was posted and some thirty or forty families had
gathered there for protection. Many of the women and children had
escaped from their homes, scantily dressed, and had been unable to
procure any clothing during the lapse of more than a month. It was a sad
sight, especially those who had lost husbands, sons and brothers.
The day after our arrival, two ladies, the wives of Major Downing and
Major McGregor, sent for me. The latter had two or three children
besides her mother. Their husbands were with Howard's column and they
were anxious to reach Canyon City and go from there to Walla Walla.
Would I escort them to Canyon City? I said certainly, I would do so, as
I would go within a few miles of that place on my return to camp. Lieut.
Bonsteil of the regulars spoke up and said he would provide them with an
escort at any time. But Mrs. McGregor told him plainly that she would
not go with the soldiers that if they got into trouble the soldiers
would run away--but the volunteers would stay with them. The Lieutenant
suggested that "it was a fine recommendation for the United States
Army." "I know the army better than you do, Lieutenant, and have known
it much longer, and I will not risk my life and the lives of my children
with them," said the plain spoken Scotch lady. The next morning, bright
and early, we started out. The ladies were riding in an ambulance,
driven by a soldier. When near half way to Bear Valley and near Mountain
Springs, we crossed the fresh trail of a strong party of Indians, but we
arrived at our destination safely, and next morning returned to camp.
Here we rested a couple of days and, Chamberlain returning, we moved to
our head camp at Grindstone. We had accomplished nothing in the way of
destroying hostiles, but had prevented them from scattering and
committing all kinds of atrocities as they had done before reaching John
Arriving at our camp we found ourselves without any provisions.
Accordingly Gen. Brown and I started to Prineville with a four horse
team to obtain supplies to send back to the men who were to follow. We
took along a teamster and the quartermaster. Starting in the evening we
arrived at the crossing of Beaver Creek, and I captured an old hen, all
that was left at the ranch after its plunder by the Indians in June. We
drove until midnight and arriving at Watson Springs, stopped for the
night. We dressed the hen and had the driver to sit up the balance of
the night and boil her. When daylight came we tried to breakfast off the
hen, but it was a rank failure, and we harnessed up and drove on,
getting a meal at a ranch ten miles from Prineville, to which place we
drove that night.
Thus ended my last Indian campaign, and one of which I never felt any
great amount of pride. In one respect it was a rank failure, due, I have
always thought, to the rank cowardice of some one--probably more than
one. We had, however accomplished some good, as before remarked, and
probably saved some lives, and that was worth all the hardships we had
I cannot close this narrative without a further reference to the boy,
Eugene Jones. During the first two weeks of the campaign my eyes became
badly affected from the dust and glare of the sun, reflected from the
white alkali plains on the head of Crooked River. At times I could
scarcely bear the light, which seemed fairly to burn my eyeballs. From
the first Eugene had attached himself to me. He would insist on taking
care of my horse in camp, and often would stop at a spring or stream and
wetting a handkerchief would bind it over my eyes and lead my horse for
miles at a time. At Murderers Creek, too, he was the only man to follow
me when I made the dash after the Indian horse herd. Another thing I
observed about the boy was that I never heard him use an oath or a
vulgar, coarse expression. What then was my surprise on arriving at
Prineville to find a letter from Sheriff Hogan of Douglas County telling
me that the boy, Eugene Jones, was none other than Eugene English, a
notorious highwayman and stage robber. He was a brother of the English
boys, well known as desperate characters. I was stunned, perplexed. The
Sheriff asked me to place him under arrest. But how could I do so, after
all he had done for me? It appeared in my eyes the depth of ingratitude.
In my dilemma I laid the matter before Judge Frank Nichols of
Prineville. I related all the boy had done for me, and asked him what,
under like circumstances, he would do. "By George, Colonel, I would not
give him up. It may be wrong, but I would not do it," replied the old
Judge. We then went to Mr. Brayman, a merchant of the town, and laid the
matter before him. He fully agreed with us that the boy should be saved.
I then went to the quartermaster, got a voucher for the boy's services,
obtained the money on the voucher from Mr. Brayman, and putting a man on
a horse, explained to him that he was to hand the letter and money to
Eugene, first having him to sign the voucher, or warrant, over to Mr.
The young man found the boy with the volunteers. He called him to one
side, gave him my letter as well as the money. He signed the voucher,
and that night disappeared and I never saw or heard of him again. But of
this I feel certain, if he fell in with the right class of men he made a
good man and citizen. Otherwise, otherwise. Do you blame me, reader? I
have never felt a regret for what I did. Put yourself in my place.
Reign of the Vigilantes.
Every newly settled country has had to deal, to a greater or less
extent, with lawless characters. Generally these outlaws have been
brought into subjection and destroyed under the operation of law.
Occasionally, however, this, from one cause or another, has been
impossible. It is then that citizens, unable longer to bear the outrages
committed by desperate criminals, take the law into their own hands and
administer justice according to their own ideas of right, and without
the forms of law. Such occasions are always to be deplored. They arise
from two causes, the maladministration of justice and bloodness of
criminals whose long immunity from punishment renders them reckless and
defiant of both law and the citizens.
Such conditions existed in the late 70's and early 80's in that portion
of Eastern Oregon now embraced in the county of Crook. During several
years desperate characters had congregated in that section. From petty
crimes, such as the stealing of cattle and horses, they resorted to
bolder acts, embracing brutal and diabolical murder. For a time the
citizens appeared helpless. Men were arrested for crime and the forms of
law gone through with. Their associates in crime would go into court,
swear them out and then boast of the act. On one occasion I went to one
of the best and most substantial citizens of the country, Wayne
Claypool, and asked him about an act of larceny of which he had been a
witness. He had seen the crime committed from concealment. I asked him
if he was going to have the men arrested. He replied that he was not.
Then, said I, if you do not I will. "Mr. Thompson," he replied, "rather
than appear against them I will abandon all I have and leave the
country. For if they did not kill me they would destroy all I have."
Under these circumstances I was forced to let the matter drop, and
content myself with writing an article for the local paper. No names
were mentioned and nothing at which an honest man could take offense.
Instead of publishing the article as a communication, it was published
as an editorial. But scarcely had the paper appeared on the street, than
three men, all known to be thieves and desperate characters, caught the
editor, knocked him down, pulled out his beard, and would probably have
done him greater bodily harm had not Til Glaze interfered and stopped
them. While the editor was being beaten he hallowed pitifully, "I didn't
do it, Thompson did it." This embittered the whole gang against both
Glaze and myself. But they appeared satisfied with threats about what
they were going to do, and for the time being made no attempt to carry
out their threats against either of us.
This was in the fall of the year. On the 15th of March, 1882, a man
dashed into town and riding up to me asked where he would find the
Coroner. He was greatly excited and his horse was covered with foam. I
told him the nearest officer was at The Dalles, 125 miles away, but that
a Justice of the Peace could act in his absence. I then asked him what
was the matter? He replied that Langdon and Harrison had killed old man
Crook and his son-in-law, Mr. Jorey. I then told him to go to Mr.
Powers, the Justice of the Peace. Presently the Deputy Sheriff for that
section of Wasco County came to me and asked me to go with him to assist
in the arrest of the murderers. There had been some dispute between the
murderers and the murdered men, resulting a law suit. It was at best a
trivial matter and no further trouble was apprehended. But immunity from
punishment had emboldened the gang and they believed they could do as
before, simply defy the law. I declined to go with the Deputy, making as
an excuse that I did not feel well. He then summoned me as a posse. I
told him to "summons and be d-d," I would not go. That it was a long
ride and that the men had been seen "going towards The Dalles, saying
they were going to give themselves up." The officer was furious and went
away threatening me with the law. But I had other ideas regarding the
whereabouts of the murderers. An old gentleman living on Mill Creek,
east of Prineville and about thirty miles from the scene of the murders,
had told me of the finding of a cabin concealed in a fir thicket and
that it contained both provisions and horsefeed and had the appearance
of having been much used, but that there was no trail leading to it. As
soon as I learned of the murders I made up my mind that the murderers
would go to that cabin. I did not, for reasons of my own, mainly that he
talked too much, tell the Deputy of my plans. I went to four men--men
of unquestioned courage and discretion--and told them of my plans.
These men were Til Glaze, Sam Richardson, G. W. Barns and Charley Long.
They all agreed to go with me. It was arranged that we were to slip out
of town singly and meet a few miles up the Ochoco Creek, at a designated
place. We deemed this essential to success, as we knew that the men had
confederates in town who would beat us to the cabin and give the alarm.
Meantime the angry Deputy got a posse together and started on his
fruitless errand. We loitered about town until about 8 o'clock, taking
particular pains to let ourselves be seen, especially about the saloons.
We did not talk together, nor did we permit any of the gang to see us in
company. We then dropped off saying we were going home, that it was bed
But instead of going to bed we mounted our horses and taking back
streets slipped out of town. The night was dark and stormy, but all five
reached the rendezvous on time and we then proceeded to the ranch of Mr.
Johnson whom we requested to pilot us to the secret cabin. The vicinity
of the cabin was reached about two o'clock in the morning, and after
securing our horses we cautiously approached it. A light was soon
discovered and with still greater caution we attempted to surround the
cabin. The barking of a dog, however, gave the alarm and both murderers
seized their rifles, blankets and some provisions and made their escape.
Jumping over a log behind the cabin they stopped to listen and finally
thinking it a false alarm, laid down their guns, etc., and walked around
to the corner of the cabin. The snow was a foot deep and so dark was the
night that they did not see us until we were within a few feet of them.
They then started to run when Richardson, Glaze and Barns opened on them
with their revolvers. Long and I were within a few feet of the front
door and did not catch even a glimpse of the fleeing murderers. They
were chased so closely that they had no time to get either their horses,
guns or blankets, but made their escape in the darkness. When the
shooting began the door flew open and a crowd of eleven men made a rush.
Long and I were armed with double barrel shot guns, and leveling them on
the crowd we ordered them back or we would kill every man of them. You
may be sure they lost no time in getting back and closing the door. I
then stepped to the side of the door and told them we were after Langdon
and Harrison, and did not wish to harm any one else, but that if one of
them stuck his head out of the cabin he would get it blown off.
We had got the horses, blankets and rifles of the murderers, and now
began the watch that was to last until daylight. The wind was fierce,
even in the shelter of the timber, and a cold snow drifted over us. We
had not only to guard the house, but the shed in which the horses were
tied as well. Besides, we did not know what would happen when daylight
came and they should discover that our party numbered five, instead of
twenty, as they supposed. When daylight finally came I went to the door
and told those inside to come out and to come out unarmed. They obeyed
at once, and eleven men filed out of the cabin. Of the number, there was
but one that any of us had ever seen before, or to my knowledge ever saw
again. The one was a brother of Langdon, and we at once placed him under
arrest that he might not render his brother assistance.
We had agreed on our plans during the night, and taking young Langdon,
Long and I started back to town, while the others began to circle for
tracks of the fugitives in the snow. I should have stated that when the
shooting began the night before, Mr. Johnson mounted his horse and rode
home at top speed. Arriving there, he sent one of his sons to Prineville
and the other up the Ochoco, telling them that we had the murderers
surrounded and were fighting as long as he was in hearing, and were in
need of help. Going up the mountain I discovered the tracks of the
fugitives in the snow, and as we reached the summit we met 75 or 80 men
coming out to help us. I turned them all back, saying the murderers had
escaped, and that the rest of our party were coming a short distance
behind. I had directed Long to keep by the side of young Langdon and
that if he attempted to escape to kill him. I then called out four young
men whom I could trust and told them to drop behind and watch for the
trail of the fugitives when they should leave the road. We then all
returned to Prineville and I turned the young man over to the Deputy
Sheriff, telling him to lock him up.
The four young men struck the trail at the foot of the Mill Creek
mountain, and following it until convinced the fugitives were
endeavoring to reach home to get horses, abandoned it and struck out
through the mountains the nearest route to the Langdon place. They
reached the ranch just as the men had got horses and some food and were
coming through the gate. Five--even one minute and they would have been
too late. But leveling their shot guns on the murderers they
surrendered. They were then brought to town, and instead of awakening
the officers, they came to my house and asked me to get up and take
charge of the prisoners. This circumstance enabled my enemies,
especially the outlaw gang, to accuse me of being the head of the
vigilantes. The prisoners were held at the livery stable, and as soon as
I arrived I sent for the Deputy Sheriff and City Marshal, and on their
arrival moved the prisoners to the bar room of the hotel. The Deputy
asked me to remain and assist in guarding the prisoners. At the hotel
the Deputy and Marshal guarded the street door, while I kept watch on
the back door. Langdon was shackled and laid down on a lounge and fell
asleep. Harrison was sitting near me and had started in to tell me all
about the murder. I was sitting sidewise to the street door, and hearing
it open, turned my head just as four men sprang upon the two officers
and bore them to the floor. At the same instant two men rushed across
the room and leveled their revolvers at me. The whole proceedings did
not occupy five seconds, so sudden was the rush. All were masked, even
their hands being covered with gloves, with the fingers cut off.
In another instant the room was filled with the uncanny figures.
Apparently every man had a place assigned him, and in less time than one
could think, every entrance to the hotel bar room was guarded by armed
men. As the two men leveled their guns at me I put up my hands, and I
want to say I stood at "attention." At the same time two men ran around
the bar room stove, and as Langdon sprang to his feet one of them struck
him with his pistol. The weapon was discharged and they then emptied
their revolvers into his body. While this was going on other men placed
a rope around the neck of Harrison and as he was rushed past me he
wailed, "For God's sake save my life and I will tell it all." But I saw
no more of him until next morning, when he was hanging under the bridge
that spanned Crooked River.
Twelve men were left in the room after the main mob had gone. Not a word
was spoken until I asked permission to go to the body of Langdon and
straighten it out. Both men bowed, but followed me closely, at no time
taking either their eyes or revolvers off me. They were, however, very
cool, and I felt little danger of an accidental discharge of their
weapons. After about twenty minutes one of the figures gave a signal and
in an instant all were gone, passing out through two doors.
It was now nearly daylight and a great crowd gathered about the hotel.
There was a great deal of suppressed excitement, but I cautioned all to
be prudent and not add to it by unguarded language. The mob appeared to
be thoroughly organized, every man having and occupying his assigned
place. This fact gave Harvey Scott an opportunity to declare in the
Oregonian that I "was the chief of the vigilantes, and could have any
man in three counties hanged" that I should order.
Matters now quieted down for a time and it was hoped that no more such
disgraceful scenes would darken the fair name of our citizens. As time
wore on the gang again became more bold and many acts of outlawry were
committed. Some time in December a stock association was organized, with
a constitution and by-laws. It was agreed that no one should ride the
range without notifying the association. Copies of the by-laws were sent
to every stock owner in the county and all were asked to join. Along in
January, about the 10th, as I remember, a crowd of the rustlers came to
town, and after filling up with bad whisky rode up and down the streets,
pistols in hand, and declared they could take the town and burn it, and
would do so "if there was any monkey business." Little attention was
paid to them, people going about their business, apparently unconcerned.
But that night there was "monkey business." Three of the gang were hung
to a juniper two miles above town, while another was shot and killed in
town. The next morning notices were found posted, with skull and
cross-bones attached, telling all hard characters to leave the county.
There was then such a higera as has seldom been witnessed. Men not
before suspicioned skipped the country. They stood not upon the order of
their going, but went--and went in a hurry. Among the number was an
ex-Justice of the Peace.
Again things quieted down. The county was divided, courts organized and
justice administered without let or hindrance. The reign of the
vigilantes was over, and citizens everywhere looked to the law for
The Passing of the Mogans.
A few years previous to the occurrences before given, two young men
arrived in the county and gave their names as Tom and Frank Page, being
brothers. I gave one of them, Frank, employment on my cattle ranch, but
soon became satisfied that he was not the right kind of a man, and
discharged him. Both remained in the section, accepting such employment
as they could obtain. One day a man came along and recognized the Page
brothers as men he had known in Nevada under a different name. Hearing
of this, they admitted that the name first given was an alias, and that
their true names were Mike and Frank Mogan. They were a quarrelsome pair
and posed as bad men, and were not long in involving themselves in
trouble and were shunned by the better class of citizens. In a case
against the younger of the two, Frank Mogan, a young lawyer, C. W.
Barnes, was employed as opposite counsel. This seemed to embitter both
men against Barnes and some threats were made against him. No attention
was paid to the matter by Barnes, but he kept a watch on them when in
Finally in the fall after the last lynching Mike came to town and in
order to pick a quarrel with Mr. Barnes, began to abuse his younger
brother, a boy of about 17 years. The boy went to his brother and told
him of Mogan's conduct. He was told that if he associated with such men
as Mogan he must suffer the consequences. The boy then went home, and
securing an old cap and ball revolver, came back to the street. Mogan
began on him again, and after suffering his abuse for some time, drew
the revolver and shot him through the chest. Mogan ran a short distance
and drawing his revolver, started back. Seeing that young Barnes was
ready for him, he turned off, walked a short distance, sank down and
died the next day. The affair created some excitement. The boy was
arrested but subsequently came clear.
At the time of the homicide I was out of town and knew nothing of the
shooting until late that night. The other Mogan brother, however,
affected to believe that I had given the revolver to the boy and had
told him to use it. I explained to him the absurdity of the charge,
proving to him that I was out of town. This appeared to make no
difference, he still holding a grudge against me for discharging him. He
made many threats against my life, all of which were borne to me. He
declared he would "kill me if he had to lay behind a sage brush and
shoot me in the back." Still I paid no apparent attention to the
threats, being satisfied he would never at any rate face me.
One evening I was called to the store of Hahne & Fried to attend to some
business. It was just after dark and while I was there I was notified by
a friend that a daughter of Judge Nichols had overheard Mogan tell one
of his friends that he had come to town to kill me and would not leave
until he had accomplished his purpose. This was going a little too far,
and I determined to settle the matter one way, or the other at our first
meeting. The test came sooner than I anticipated. On seeing me he
attempted to draw his gun but was too slow, and fell with more than one
bullet: through his body.
I sent for Sheriff Geo. Churchill and surrendered myself as a prisoner.
He told me to go home and if he wanted me he would send me word. The
committing magistrate, at my request, placed me under bonds to appear
before the Grand Jury. The announcement caused an uproar among the
throng with which the court-room was packed, and I was compelled to go
among them and explain that it was done at my especial request. I wanted
the matter to come up in the Grand jury room and so told the people. The
Oregonian published distorted and untruthful statements regarding the
affair, and attorneys from every part of the State volunteered their
services to defend me free of charge. I wrote to them, of course
thanking them, but told them I had no use for attorneys, as the matter
would never go beyond the Grand jury, and there it ended, the District
Attorney, Mr. McBride, proving my strongest witness.
I have gone somewhat into detail in this matter through no spirit of
bravado, for no one could deplore the necessity of my action more than
I. But to show to those who have never experienced frontier life the
dangers, difficulties and hardships through which one must pass. It may
be said that I should have had Mogan arrested for threatening my life.
To such I will say that under all the circumstances such a course would
only have still more embittered the situation and made the end
inevitable. Another thing, among frontiersmen the man who goes to law
for protection of that kind, makes of himself a pusillanimous object for
every vagabond to spit upon and kick. I was not "built: that way."
The Lookout Lynching.
Coming down to a later date, perhaps no event of its character has
attracted so much comment, and been the subject, of more gross
misrepresentation than the "Lookout Lynching." I have, therefore, been
asked to give a true account of the deplorable affair, the causes
leading up to the same, and the sensational trial of nineteen citizens
accused of participating in the act.
To begin at the beginning: Along in the early 70's the United State
government established a military post at Fort Crook, in Fall River
valley, which was occupied by a company of cavalry under command of one
Capt. Wagner. The post was designed to afford protection to settlers
against depredations by hostile Indians. Soon after the arrival of the
troops the Captain began to cast eyes of favor on a comely young Indian
woman, the wife of a Pit River brave. The Captain had been sent to
civilize the Indians, and was not long in taking the woman under his
protection. The arrangement was agreeable to the woman, who preferred
the favor of the white chief to that of her dusky husband.
Time wore on and the government concluded to abandon the post, and
ordered Capt. Wagner and his company elsewhere. Of course, he could not
take the Indian woman with him, and she must be got rid of. The means
presented itself in the person of a soldier named Calvin Hall, whose
term of enlistment had expired. He proposed to Hall that if he would
take the woman off his hands he, the Captain, would give him a small
portable sawmill which the government had sent to the post to saw lumber
with which to build quarters, etc. The arrangement being agreeable to
Hall, the trade was made and the woman and sawmill passed to a different
In the course of time Hall sold the sawmill and settled on a piece of
land not far from the present town of Lookout. Here the two full blood
children of the woman grew to manhood. Another child was born to the
woman, the father being a man named Wilson, with whom she lived during
one of her changes of lovers, for Mary (her Christian name) was a woman
of many loves. The half breed boy was fifteen years old, and probably by
reason of environment was not a model. The two full bloods, Frank and
Jim Hall, the names by which they were known, gradually became looked
upon as desperate characters. Their many misdeeds brought them into
prominence, and frequent arrests followed. But somehow Hall managed to
enable them to escape the vengeance of the law. This only served to make
them bolder in their misdeeds. Cattle were killed and horses mutilated,
merely because the owners had incurred their enmity. The school house in
the neighborhood was broken open, books destroyed and other vandal acts
committed. In fact, they became the terror of the neighborhood, the Hall
home being a place of refuge and shelter, and Hall a protector when
arrests followed their crimes.
This condition of affairs could not exist for long. When the law fails
to protect life and property, I have always observed that men find a way
to protect them. About a year and a half before the finale, a gentleman
living in Lookout visited Alturas and detailed the many misdeeds of
these men to me. One in particular I remember. Dr. Shearer, a wealthy
stock man living some distance this side of Lookout, had employed some
Indians in harvesting his hay crop. Frank Hall had a grievance against
the Indians, and during their absence from their camp went there and cut
their wagons and harness to pieces. The Indians trailed him to within a
short distance of Halls, but were afraid to go further. They complained
to Mr. Shearer, who promptly sent word to Frank Hall that if he ever
came on his ranch he, Shearer, would shoot him. Some time after this Mr.
Shearer found a saddle animal belonging to his wife cut and mutilated in
a most shameful manner. The horse, a beautiful animal and a pet, had his
ears and tail cut off, while deep gashes were cut in his side and hips.
Mr. Shearer could not prove that Frank Hall committed the dastardly act,
but was more than satisfied of his guilt. This and other like acts were
detailed to me, and I wrote an article for my paper detailing the
grievances of the people of that section and ending by predicting that,
unless it was stopped, "juniper trees would bear fruit." My prediction
came true a year and a half later, only that the Pit River bridge and
not the junipers bore the fruit.
Some time during the year of 1900 a man named Yantes came to the
vicinity of Lookout and took up with the Halls. Later he took Mary, the
Indian woman, away from old man Hall, and lived with her on a ranch he
had located. He carried a big gun and posed as a bad man, and of course
found genial companionship in the sons of the Indian woman. The coming
of Yantes seemed to add to the boldness and reckless conduct of Frank
and Jim Hall and the half-breed boy Wilson. Along towards the last of
May, 1901, a burglary was committed in the neighborhood. Of course the
Hall crowd was suspected and a search warrant obtained. At the Hall home
several of the articles were found, as well as on the persons of the
men. The hides and meat of animals recently killed were found at the
Hall and Yantes homes and the brands identified by the owner. This
discovery led to the arrest of the entire gang, including Hall and the
half-breed boy Wilson. They were taken to Lookout and a guard placed
The Grand jury was in session at Alturas, and next morning R. E.
Leventon and Isom Eades came to Alturas to secure the indictment of the
men. The proof was positive, and they felt that at last a conviction
could be secured. But unfortunately the Grand jury adjourned that
morning. They then applied to the District Attorney to go to Lookout and
prosecute the criminals. But Mr. Bonner had a case coming up at Lake
City, and the Justice refusing to postpone it, could not go. The matter
was finally arranged by the appointment by Mr. Bonner of C. C. Auble, an
Adin attorney, as a special deputy to prosecute the cases. The
appointment was made out and given to Leventon and Eades, but Mr.
Bonner, a young lawyer and serving his first, term, made the fatal
mistake of instructing Mr. Auble to dismiss the charge of burglary and
rearrest the men for petty larceny.
During all this time the five men, two white men, the half-breed boy and
the two Indians, were held under guard, the bar room of the hotel being
used for the purpose. When it became known that the prisoners were
merely to be prosecuted for the smaller crime, the whole country became
aroused. Both Yantes and the Halls made threats of dire vengeance upon
those instrumental in their arrest. They declared they would get even as
soon as they were free. All knew the Indians and Yantes to be desperate
men, and to turn them loose would be equivalent to applying the torch to
their homes, if not the knife to their throats. Accordingly at the hour
of 1:30 on the morning of May 31st a rush was made by masked men, the
prisoners taken from the guards and all five hung to the railing of the
Pit River bridge.
The news spread like wildfire and created intense excitement throughout
the county and State. The great papers, in two column headlines, told of
the "wiping out of a whole family." "An old man," said they, "his three
sons and his son-in-law," were ruthlessly hung for a petty crime, the
stealing of a few straps of leather. In Modoc county the sentiment of
nine-tenths of the people was that the leaders of the mob should be
punished. Young Banner had made a mistake, due doubtless to youth and
inexperience, but it remained for Superior Judge Harrington to make a
still more serious one.
Judge Harrington wrote to the Attorney-General asking that detectives
and a special prosecutor be sent to investigate and prosecute the case
against the lynchers. He also called the Grand jury together in special
session. But there never was any evidence.
The Grand jury convened on June 10th, and a host of witnesses were in
The result of the Grand Jury session was the returning of indictments
against R. E. Leventon, Isom Eades and James Brown. As the case against
Brown appeared to be the best, he was "brought to trial" November 21,
1901. Assistant Attorney-General Post and Deputy Attorney George
Sturtevant were sent from the Attorney-General's office to prosecute the
case. The prisoner was defended by ex-Judge G. F. Harris, E. V. Spencer
and John E. Raker.
Soon after the trial began Judge Post sent for a noted gunfighter named
Danny Miller. And during all those weary three months of the trial he
could be seen trotting around after Post, his mustache turned up, a la
William of Germany, like a rat terrier following a mastiff, to the
infinite amusement of the small boy and utter disgust of sensible men.
Gibson, the noted San Francisco detective, was here, assisted by other
detectives and a dozen or more local head hunters, who were after a
share of the big reward. District Attorney Bonner was pushed aside and
completely ignored. He was not even given an insight into what was going
on. In justice to Mr. Sturtevant I want to say that he had no hand in
the high-handed measures adopted by Post and Harrington. And had he been
in control the result of the Brown trial might have ended differently.
Indeed, so favorably were the people of Modoc impressed with Mr.
Sturtevant that members of both parties--prominent citizens--went to
him and offered him the Superior Judgeship at the coming fall election.
For reasons of his own he declined, and before the end of the Brown
trial left in disgust.
At one stage of the proceedings there was talk of supplying troops from
the National Guard to preserve order. And yet there had at no time been
a breach of the peace or threats made except by the man Miller. On one
occasion Miller drew a revolver in the court room and attempted to shoot
Attorney Raker. At another time he beat a young man named Russell over
the head with a gun for some fancied offense. A brother of young Russell
kept the principal hotel in the town, and both had been open in their
denunciation of the lynchers. I mention these facts to show why it was
that the citizens of the county turned from nine-tenths in favor of
prosecuting the lynchers to the utmost limit, to nine-tenths the other
Early in January Detective Gibson went to a young man who was stranded
in Alturas with his wife and offered him a portion of the reward,
amounting to $900, to testify to a certain matter. The young man and his
wife were working, for their board, but he told Gibson that he knew
nothing of the matter and that poor as he was he would not swear to a
falsehood. Gibson went away, but returned a few nights, later and again
tried to get him to testify, saying that the men were guilty and that no
one would ever be the wiser. Slavin (the young man's name) then told
Gibson that if he ever came to his home with such a proposal that he,
Slavin, would shoot him like a dog. All these attempts at bribery soon
became known and filled citizens everywhere with consternation. They
argued that under such methods an innocent man might be sacrificed that
a lot of head hunters could gain a big reward.
On January 4th, 1902, Mary Lorenz, a half breed daughter of old Mary
Hall, swore to a warrant charging, fifteen others with complicity in the
lynching. All were arrested, but not one was found to be armed. They
were placed in jail, and on the 10th indictments were filed charging
each one with five different murders.
The causes leading to these arrests were said to be the confessions of
John Hutton and Claude Morris.
It subsequently developed that Morris was taken to a room, there plied
with whisky by the detectives, aided by Simmons, and at two o'clock in
the morning signed an affidavit that had been prepared for him. After he
regained consciousness he denied the whole thing, but was told that he
would be sent to the penitentiary for perjury if he went back on the
confession he had signed before a notary public. Under the circumstances
the poor, weak boy, kept under guard and away from friends and
relatives, was compelled to stick to the evidence that had been prepared
As the trial of Brown dragged its "slimy length along," the scenes in
the court room at times beggared description. Harrington, badgered by
the attorneys for the defense, raved like a madman, and generally ended
by sending one or more of the attorneys for Brown to jail. He refused to
permit any evidence to be introduced for the purpose of impeachment.
Disinterested men were brought from Tule Lake to prove that the boy
Hutton was on his way to Lookout from that place when the lynching took
place. Another witness was placed on the stand and testified that he
stood on the ground, back of Leventon's shop and saw certain of the
accused, among them Brown, and heard them plotting. Harrington refused
to permit any evidence to be introduced tending to impeach the witness.
When Harrington would rule against the admission of this evidence,
Harris, Raker or Spencer would argue the point and manage to get the
evidence before the jury and end by going to jail. The attorneys took
turns going to jail, but managed for one to remain outside to conduct
the case. Thus wore away the weary months until the jury brought in a
verdict of "not guilty." In conversation with one of the jurymen that
morning he stated that the character of the witnesses for the
prosecution was enough. They were Indians, half-breeds, and disreputable
characters of every shade and degree.
The morning after the verdict was rendered not one of these creatures
could be found. During the night they had fled and scattered like a
covey of quail. They feared arrest for perjury, of which they were
guilty. All that remained the next morning was General Post and his gun
man, Danny Miller. They took the stage after breakfast and were seen no
more. The prisoners were discharged one and two and three at a time and
quietly returned to their homes.
Thus ended the dreary farce of the prosecution of the Lookout lynchers.
It had cost the county about $40,000 and had accomplished nothing, save
to blacken the character of our citizens and cause the outside world to
look upon us as outlaws and desperadoes.
The events here recorded were seen with my own eyes, or were received
from the lips of the actors therein. Hundreds of men and boys passed
through equal or greater dangers and privations than I, and are entitled
to equal or greater credit. Reared in the wilderness and on the frontier
of civilization, I was merely the product of environment, and lay claim
to no particular distinction above those who were my companions. And
yet, as I look back over the past, I must be excused for a feeling of
pride in having been a part, however insignificant, in the building here
on the western rim of the continent, of the mighty Empire of the
To have seen proud cities rear their heads from a wilderness--from a
cluster of log huts in a primeval forest--whose everlasting stillness
was alone broken by the yells of savage men, the long howl of the wolf
and the scream of the panther--is something to have lived for.
And yet I question if those who now possess this land of plenty--this
land of "milk and honey" ever give a thought for those who "Conquered
the Wilderness" and made it a fit and safe abode for the millions of
civilized men and women who now enjoy its blessings.
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