Oregon and Washington Volunteers/25

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[Letter of Hon. A. M. Rosborough, relative to Indian affairs within his agency in 1854, dated November 23, 1857.][edit]

Yreka, November 23, 1857.

Dear Sir: Elijah Steele, esq., has conveyed to me your request to state any facts within my knowledge tending to show a combined movement of the Indians of this region of the Pacific coast, towards a general outbreak against the whites in the year 1854.

I was special Indian agent for northern California at that time, having been appointed by Lieutenant Beale, superintendent of Indian affairs, and continued by Colonel Henley, (the present superintendent of Indian affairs for the State of California,) until 1855.

In June, 1854, I was informed by several chiefs of the Scott’s and Shasta valley tribes that runners had been sent to their tribes to summon them to a general war council, to be held at a point on the Klamath called Horse creek. I consulted with Lieutenant J. C. Bonnecastle, United States army, then stationed at Fort Jones. He and myself concurred in the propriety of advising the chiefs who had reported the movement to attend the war council and report to us the whole proceedings.

The chiefs returned from the council and reported the tribes of Illinois river, Rogue river, and the upper Klamath river and their tributaries represented in the council, and all but themselves (the chiefs that had reported the movement to me) were for combining and commencing in concert an indiscriminate slaughter of the whites. They reported that they were first importuned to join in the attack, and when they refused again and again they were threatened by the other tribes with extermination; upon which they withdrew, and the council broke up in a row.

The Scott’s and Shasta valley tribes remained friendly, while the Illinois, Rogue and upper Klamath river tribes commenced depredations and continued (at least a portion of them) until the latter part of the spring of 1856. I am not certain of the date at which hostilities ceased. However, you know more about what transpired on Rogue river and Illinois river, in Oregon, than I do, as it is out of my jurisdiction as Indian agent.

The Upper Klamath or Klamath Lake Indians (with the exception of the tribe of which La Lakes is chief) commenced their depredations by killing whites and stealing stock, and a report was current among the friendly Indians, that those hostile intended to destroy the emigrants as fast as they came from the valley of the Humboldt.

The first I heard that there was a company of troops from Oregon, out in the Klamath Lake country, on the emigrant road between this place and the Humboldt river, was a report brought me of the fact by the friendly chief, La Lakes, before mentioned.

La Lakes informed me that the hostile Modoc chiefs were willing to cease hostilities, and wished to make a treaty of friendship. He said that the Modocs were willing to pledge themselves to cease their attack upon the emigrants, if the company from Oregon would make a treaty with them. I wrote a few lines by La Lakes to the commander of the Oregon company, stating the proposition the hostile chiefs had made through La Lakes. I am not acquainted with the captain of the Oregon company, but La Lakes informed me that his name was Walker, and I so addressed him. Whether he got my letter or not I have never learned.

I told La Lakes to inform the hostile Indians to keep away from the emigrant road, and let the emigrants and their stock alone; and if they would do so, it would be some evidence of their sincerity in desiring peace.

I also wrote to the superintendent of Indian affairs, informing him of the desire of the Indians to make a treaty. He replied to me that he had no power to make a treaty; that his authority was limited to removing Indians upon reservations, and subsisting them there until they could help to provide for themselves.

In the winter of 1854, my duties called me to the vicinity of the mouth of the Klamath river, one hundred and fifty miles west of this, where the large tribes had commenced hostilities by killing seven or eight whites; where I was detained about three months before the difficulty was completely settled. For this period I cannot speak, of my own knowledge, as to what occurred on Rogue river or the Upper Klamath. You can get information as to what transpired, from those in the vicinity, during that period. I believe I have answered as to events you inquire about during 1854.


C. S. Drew, Esq.