The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Letters from the Wilderness
Letters from James Croke, the priest tasked with bringing Catholicism to the wilderness of Southern Oregon in the 1850s.

Coos Bay, Lower Umpqua
    August 26th 1853
    Since last I had the honor of writing to your lordship, many circumstances have occurred to retard my progress. I am already heartily tired of my missionary tour, and anxiously look forward to the day when I shall be able to return to civilized life and to the society of virtuous friends. Through all this country, with very few exceptions, the state of morality is at its lowest ebb, the few Catholics even that I meet are so only in name, and I assure your lordship that the prospects for a missionary are discouraging and gloomy in the extreme; and to add to his mortification the priest is not only obliged to breathe an atmosphere of corruption, but he is deprived of the happiness of celebrating the divine sacrifice of the mass, frequently even on Sundays. The only consolation that he has is to pray that God would have mercy on his people, and to unite his intention with those who have the happiness of assisting at the holy offices of the church. It is only when deprived of that sacred privilege that we can properly appreciate the consolation of our holy religion and the comfort of offering up the divine sacrifice of the mass. It is the will of God, however, that such should be the case for a short time, and I humbly resign myself to his holy will and to the wishes of my superior. I shall now give your lordship a brief sketch of the principal places I have visited since my last letter, and how I actually find myself.
    After leaving Mr. Jesse Applegate's, where I was most kindly and hospitably received by Mrs. Applegate in the absence of her husband, I proceeded on my journey south, and arrived that evening at Captain Kilburn's who lives within one mile of Winchester and some 27 miles from Applegate's. The captain and his family received me most kindly and pressed me very urgently to remain some days with them. I passed the night with them after a wearisome and hungry day, and started next morning for what is called "the Canyon." Winchester, one mile from Cap. Kilburn's, is a very small town, built on the left bank of the North Umpqua River. It consists of a few houses, one of which is a store belonging to Gen. Lane's son-in-law. Though it is the great thoroughfare from the mines to Scottsburg, it is too far from the head of navigation to become a place of any considerable commercial importance. It may, however, in the course of time become a large inland town, as it is surrounded by a good farming country. I visited Revd. Mr. Wilbur, Methodist preacher who resides there, and with whom I was acquainted in Portland. He is the presiding elder of southern Oregon, and generally known through the country. He received me very politely, gave me some information regarding the morality of the mining regions, and offered me the hospitality of his house on my return. From him I received first intimation of the difficulties between the whites and the Rogue River Indians, and the dangers of the journey to the mines. I regarded it however rather lightly, and resolved to push on as far as I could. That night, not finding a house to stop at, I staked my horse on the banks of the South Umpqua River, and slept soundly under the shade of a fine oak tree with my saddlebags as my pillow, and a large fire to keep me warm. When I arrived at the "Canyon," which is a narrow pass 12 miles long through the Umpqua Mountains which separate the Rogue River Valley from the Umpqua, I found it impossible for me to proceed any farther. The Indians are under arms in great numbers, and have attacked the whites even in the town of Jacksonville. The communication between here and the mines is entirely cut off, and some packers who have gone through the Canyon have been obliged to return. All the settlers who lived in the Rogue River country have left their claims and gone to Jacksonville. Some 13 or 14 whites have been killed and several houses along the road have been burned down by the Indians. Some packers have represented the number of the latter as being very great, but the reports are so conflicting that it is difficult to form a correct judgment as to their number or the real state of affairs. It is certain however that several tribes of Indians, viz., the Shastas, the Klamath Lakes, the Grave Creeks, the Cow Creeks, the Coquilles and some say the South Umpquas have united, and that their number cannot be less than 600 warriors. They are all well armed; they have taken from the whites 100 head of cattle, are encamped together at Table Rock near Jacksonville, and determined to fight to the last. They have already had two skirmishes with the whites and have been victorious each time. Mr. Harding, the lawyer and former representative, is amongst the killed. General Lane has passed through the Canyon about the 20th inst. with some men to endeavor to put a stop to hostilities. I remained some time at the Canyon, waiting for a company to pass on, but finding none, and it being madness to risk the journey alone, particularly as the houses along the road have been all abandoned, I returned to Winchester, where I would be under less expense and could find something to eat for my horse. When I got near Winchester I found my horse perfectly disabled, his laziness increased one hundredfold, and his back was all swelled so that I could not put his saddle on. I traded him off with a farmer for a nice Indian mare which though small is an excellent traveler. I stopped 2 days near Winchester with an Irishman whom I knew at Oregon City, but finding the news from the mines every day less encouraging I resolved, in order to spare time, to alter my plan of traveling, and to go on to Scottsburg and visit that part of the country and then on my return to go to Jacksonville if I found it possible. I accordingly left for Scottsburg on the 17th of Aug. and arrived there after two days' journey. Finding, on my arrival there, the steamer Washington ready to make a trip to Coos Bay I applied to Mr. Allan of the firm of Allan, McKurlay & Co. to whom she belongs and procured a passage on her. We arrived the first day at Umpqua City at the mouth of the Umpqua River, and on Saturday the 20th we endeavored to cross the Umpqua Bar. We found the breakers too high and the weather too stormy to get out to sea, but on the following morning Sunday we crossed the bar with great difficulty and with much risk, and after a stormy passage we anchored safely in Coos Bay. We were scarcely out at sea when it blew a heavy gale from the N.W. The little steamer, however, contrary to the expectations of all on board, who gave themselves up as lost, weathered the storm gallantly and thanks to God we got in safely over the bar at the Coos Bay. A company of 20 persons, amongst whom is Dr. Sheil, have commenced to build a town 6 miles from the mouth of the bay, which promises before long to become the largest seaport town in Oregon. It is causing great excitement through Southern Oregon, and this it was that induced me to risk a passage on the Washington in order to visit it and judge for myself. The entrance to the bay is safe; the bar is one mile wide, and I have been told that at all stages of the tide a ship of any tonnage will find plenty of water to get over it. The bay itself is a beautiful sheet of water, sheltered from all sides except the N.W. It is some 35 miles long and varies from 1 to 3 miles wide. At its top the Koose or Coos River joins it, which is navigable for 25 miles above its mouth for ships of any [omission] and has some very valuable water power. The banks of this river, as well as the bay, are surrounded by a very extensive farming country covered with [an] abundance of fine white cedar timber well calculated for lumber. They have found here very extensive coal banks. I have visited them myself--seen them worked--handled and tested the coals, and found it excellent, as far as I am a judge--we burned it on board the Washington, instead of wood. This alone is calculated to make Coos Bay a place of great importance. The name of the new town is "Empire City." It is already divided into lots, some of which have been purchased. There are at least 50 persons camped here in the open air. They received me most kindly, boarded me for nearly a week "gratis," and on today have given me a donation of 4 lots for a church, with a promise of 4 more as soon as the entire company can hold a meeting. The site of the church is on 3rd Street, and commands a beautiful view of the bay. On tomorrow I start for Umpqua City. I must walk along the beach, as the Washington has returned. There is a great number of Indians here. They speak no Chinook. From Umpqua City I go to Scottsburg, where I hope to get some lots. All the mining business up to this has been principally done here, and when I passed by before there were 2 vessels in the river from S. Francisco. It is a place that's fast progressing, but the town site is most miserable, and building ground very scarce. From Scottsburg I leave again for the Canyon, and if I find it possible to go to Jacksonville I shall try to get there. If not--I shall return home. The last account from the Indians is that they have repulsed the whites again. Hostilities will probably continue throughout the fall. I should wish to have some instructions from your lordship. A letter to Winchester written immediately may find me. I found a good deal of Catholics, principally French, near Winchester, but more about them in my next. My money is going fast. The grass is so bad that I am obliged to buy oats once a day for my horse. Living in the towns is very dear, and no one charitable enough to give you a mouthful of bread without money. I have found old Gasquier. I hope to do something with him. I am afraid that I have trespassed too much on your lordship's patience, but I have done. Remember me most affectionately to Mr. O'Reilly. Recommending myself most humbly to the pious prayers and "mementos" of your lordship and my Revd. Conpere I have the honor to remain
Your very humble and obedt. servant
    J. Croke
An edited extract from this letter was printed in the Oregon Spectator of September 16, 1853, page 2, over the signature "C.J."

    Jacksonville Septr 20th 1853       
My Lord Archbishop--
    I have now visited all the towns in Southern Oregon, and, I think, have acquired a pretty correct idea of the religious prospects of the country. Though not so bright and cheering as a missionary may desire, still they are not altogether hopeless, and, I am sure that in the course of time with patience and persevering exertion aided by a reasonable amount of money some good may be effected in this part of the country. A permanent missionary post with at least two priests should be established in some central position from which all the country could be conveniently and regularly visited. A flying mission is useless, or at least the good resulting from it is but partial and by no means abiding. The Catholics here are so few and in general so lukewarm that it requires some time for a priest to hunt them out, and even then it is not in one day that he can inspire them with the proper dispositions. A priest, in order to do good amongst them, must become personally acquainted with them, must follow their motions from place to place, particularly here at the mines, where the population is so uncertain and so floating. He must have an accurate idea of the country, must visit his posts regularly, and, above all, must be supplied with the funds necessary to defray his expenses--and then, with the grace of God, some good may be reasonably expected to result from his missionary labors. Without money to travel speedily from place to place, his exertions will be cramped--and he will be frequently exposed to want even the necessaries of life. For him, except amongst a few, charity and hospitality are as rare as certain other virtues, and are only to be met with by him who has the means to purchase them. I know, my lord, that a filial and deeply rooted hope in the protecting aid of divine Providence, who feedeth the little birds of the air and clotheth the lilies of the valley, should be the abiding virtue of a priest, and form as it were a portion of his very being. Still that hope must be prudent, otherwise it would cease to be a virtue. My funds still hold out, notwithstanding many unforeseen expenses, and with a proper amount of economy I expect to get as far as the other side of the Calapooia Mountains on my way home with what little funds I have still on hand. After buying my rubber coat I started from Canemah with only $100. Shoeing my horses alone has cost me nine dollars, ferry money at least seven--and a pair of boots 6 dos. at Scottsburg. Here in Jacksonville living is very high and horse feed exorbitant. Board is $4 per day and stabling 1½. However I need not tell your lordship that I manage to live a little cheaper, otherwise I should go to mining in order to get home. The Indian difficulties are at last ended--at least for the moment, though traveling in this valley is far from being yet safe. Thanks to Almighty Providence I have got here safe and unharmed amidst dangers and difficulties. I have had protection where I least expected it--and am considerably indebted to the kindness of Mr. Jesse Applegate and Major B. Alvord, formerly commander at The Dalles, for the privilege of traveling in their company free of all expenses. The Major has divided with me his tent and his soldier's fare, and has invited me to join his party when going home. I am sorry, however, that I cannot avail myself of his kind offer, as they are employed in surveying the road, and will consequently travel too slow for me. I intend starting from Jacksonville, with the help of God, on Monday the 26th instant, and expect to get to the Willamette about the 20th of October. I must endeavor to travel in company with a few others as the road between here and the Umpqua Valley is as unsafe as ever on account of scouting bands of Indians who have not yet come in to make a treaty and are still looked upon as outlaws. They are chiefly the Indians of the Applegate tribe and some few of what is called the Grave Creek. General Lane is here still. His wound is almost healed, and he intends leaving, I believe, on tomorrow for his home. He has acted bravely on this occasion, and has shown great clemency and moderation towards the poor Indians. Were it not for him the war may not be ended for the next twelve months. His conduct in making a treaty with the revolted tribes is severely canvassed and bitterly commented upon by some who delight in scenes of bloodshed and cruelty and who gloated over the total extermination of the Indians. But I am sure it cannot fail to meet the approbation of the better and more enlightened portion of the people of Oregon. The Indians here and along the coast are a brave and hardy race of men and far superior in physical strength to any Indians I have seen in Oregon. During the late war they fought bravely--and have proved themselves to be a very formidable foe. They used their muskets with perhaps as deadly effect as the whites, and have shown themselves superior to them in that coolness and caution so requisite for the kind of warfare they were carrying on. As your lordship has doubtless seen all the details of the proceedings on the papers I shall not trouble you with any more particulars. I have found but very few Catholics here--the late disturbances have scattered them all. The mines were completely abandoned, and it is only now that they are commencing to work them again. They have paid but very poorly during summer in consequence of the difficulty of working them for want of water--business here has been consequently dull--but during winter the mining will be carried on more briskly. I intend preaching here next Sunday in the Courthouse. Jacksonville is a considerable town, but a good deal smaller than Portland. The population consists principally of miners, packers, storekeepers and gamblers, and there are very few families. T'Vault and Angel, formerly of Oregon City, live near Jacksonville. As I have already visited Scottsburg and the coast, the following is the plan I purpose adopting in my journey home. From here to Canyon, where there are a few Canadians with whom I intend spending a few days. There are some dozen Catholics near Winchester. I shall stay one Sunday there to give them an opportunity of assisting at mass and attending to their religious duties. From thence to Salem through Marysville, where I intend spending another Sunday. When my business is done in Salem I cross the Willamette and visit the upper Yamhill settlement as far as Dayton and Lafayette and perhaps the [omission?] plains. I cross the Willamette again at Champoeg and hope to spend a few days with Father Mangarini to revive myself a little before starting for Oregon City. My health at present is very good--though I have had the fever twice at Scottsburg. I have been out under all the rain that has fallen since the commencement of Septr. I have camped out and slept in the open air frequently and still, thank God, it has done me not the slightest harm. My little Indian pony is holding out very well, and expect will carry me home. I feel considerably fatigued and worn out, and look forward with anxiety to the day when my missionary excursions shall be ended. Cost what it may, however, I am resolved to visit all sections of the country, and to find out all the Catholics I can. I baptized at Scottsburg a young Indian girl of the tribe Siouskla on the coast. She was dying of consumption. I also administered to her the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, having previously instructed her as well as I could. I met old Gagnier. I shall give your lordship all the particulars of my interviews with him, as well as all the details of my mission when I have the honor of meeting your lordship. I don't know whether you will ever receive this letter, as the mail communications are rather uncertain at present. I have been disappointed at not receiving a letter from your lordship when I got to Jacksonville. It would be too late now to direct there. Salem is the only post office where I would be apt to find any letters your lordship may wish to write after the present date. Best respects to Mr. O'Reilly. Dr. [Edward] Sheil lives here. He has been very kind to me and has aided me considerably in the object of my mission.
    I recommend myself, my lord, to your prayers and holy sacrifices and have the honor to remain
Your very humble and
        Obedient servant
                James Croke

    Monday Sep. 5th 1854
    This evening about 6 o'clock I arrived at the mouth of the Canyon, and, thank God, my journey thus far has been sufficiently prosperous.
    Since I left Coleman's on Wednesday 30 August morning last I have traveled on constantly until yesterday (Sunday) about noon when I arrived and put up at a friend's house near Winchester. I did not wish to travel any farther on that day as I wished to give my horse a half day's rest and was in free quarters. I started from there early this morning, but found the road so rough and hilly that I have not been able to get farther than here today--a distance of about 30 miles from where I stopped last night. My average day's journey since I left Coleman's has been about 40 miles. I find the horse very good, but I feed him well, for which I have to pay very dear--a half dollar a night generally. Horse feed here is very high--a quarter of a dol. for a "petite gerbe d'avoine." My health for the last few days has been very good. I have no return of the chills, and with the exception of a headache I find myself as the Americans say--"first rate."
    Nothing of any interest has occurred since I had the honor of seeing your lordship last. I find the country down through the Umpqua has been greatly improved since last year, and has been very thickly settled since then. A great deal of the wheat has been lost by the late rains--as much, I think, as in the Willamette Valley. There have been camp meetings lately throughout this settlement that have caused quite an excitement. A great number of persons "found religion," as the poor fanatics call it, and have joined the Methodists--the dominant sect, I believe, in the Umpqua. They have been baptized by immersion in that river a few Sundays since. We are undoubtedly in the background here. The ministers of error are straining every nerve to establish themselves and build up missions--verily I'm afraid "they are wiser in their generation than the children of light." Some of our Catholics here have been at these camp meetings. They have no other place to go to, and are influenced by curiosity or the example of their neighbors to attend them, and I'm afraid they are but too pliant to the solicitations of their very tolerant friends. There is a very large seminary, something like that at Oregon City, built by the Methodist preacher who formerly lived in Portland. It is only one mile north of Winchester, and is already well attended.
    I have no more time to write. I hope your lordship's health is well, and recommending myself to your prayer I have the honor to remain
    Jas. Croke.
    Tomorrow, please God, I pass through the Canyon, and if no accident occur I expect to be in Jacksonville about noon on Wednesday.         J.C.

Crescent City California
    Septr. 18th 1854
        12 Oct
My Lord Archbishop.
    I arrived here yesterday, and leave this evening for the mouth of Smith's River 15½ miles more north and two inside the dividing line between Oregon and California. Since my last letter I have been continually traveling. An accident prevented me from carrying my buggy farther than the Grave Creek Hills forty miles from Jacksonville where I have left it and my horse in care of a friend, and, having procured the use of a mule from Mr. Clugage, the proprietor of Jacksonville, to whose polite attention and liberality I am much indebted, I continued my mission to its most southern limits through the various mining regions which belong to your lordship's jurisdiction. You will be surprised perhaps to find me here in a town belonging to the archdiocese of San Francisco, but having arrived at the southern limits of Oregon, "Sailor's Diggings," my shortest route and best road to the settlements on Smith's River and north of that lies through Crescent City along the seashore as far north as the mouth of Rogue River and even Port Orford. Hence my presence here. Though I have been here only a few hours I have discovered a pretty good number of Catholics, but as they are sheep belonging to another shepherd I have contented myself with simply visiting them and encouraging them to hold steadfast to their faith until God would be pleased to send them a missionary laborer and an opportunity of practicing the duties of their holy religion. The Catholics here are truly catholic in a certain sense, as they are composed of different nations. Irish, Americans, Canadian, Spanish, French are here represented, and that too in very respectable proportions, but then many of them, as elsewhere, are only so in name. The Mexicans, chiefly packers, are in the majority I think amongst the Catholics. However they may stand in point of morality, the swarthy Mexican is a true son of the old Church, and devotedly attached to his faith. I have endeavored along the road to introduce myself to all of them I met, and to explain the object of my mission in rather broken Spanish, and nothing could exceed their joy and their demonstrations of respect when they fully understood that I was a real "padre Católico." So little did they dream of seeing a priest here that, fearing they may be imposed on by a Protestant preacher, they appeared perfectly incredulous to my repeated assertions that I was a real living priest, and it was only when I showed them my crucifix and beads that they showed their belief in the truth of my assertion, and their respectful devotion towards the holy instrument of our redemption.
    The preachers of all sects and names are indefatigable in their efforts to induce Catholics to attend their conventicles. They visit, urge and flatter them, and make use of every device to induce them to go to their meeting houses on Sunday, and I regret to say that, in a great many cases, they have been successful here in Crescent City, as the presiding preacher is a man of pretty good standing and generally respected, hence there is more danger of his being successful in his efforts. But in Jacksonville the Methodist preacher [Thomas Fletcher "Limpy" Royal] who presides over the meetings of the saints (?) is even laughed at and despised by the whole community and consequently powerless for evil. He is an uneducated bigot, ignorant, intolerant and avaricious, scarcely able to speak a sentence of correct English, and still he jabbers against the Pope and popery as if he knew the meaning of the words. His preaching, if such it may be called, does more good to us than harm, and he is so little thought of that his manner of walking (he is lame) is publicly mimicked by the "boys" in his very presence. He has succeeded, however, in putting up a church, which he will be soon obliged to sell, as no one attends his meetings. 
    As I passed rather rapidly through the mining regions on my way here, I have not yet discovered many Catholics there, but I intend making a closer investigation on my return. Nearly all that I knew last year have gone to other diggings, and they are so scattered, and sometimes so far separated by almost inaccessible mountains that it would take whole months to find them all out. Not a creek or gulch in the mountains that there are not some few scattered miners to be found searching after gold and sharing the wild solitudes with the savage grizzly bears that so much abound in northern California. They wander about like the Indians, traveling from diggings to diggings and leading a life that is not far removed from barbarism. The Catholics in Jacksonville are very anxious to have a church built amongst them and are willing to help to the utmost of their means. I have given them some hopes of having their wishes realized next year. Next spring, if the mining be successful this winter, there would be a fair chance of making a good collection towards building a little church which would answer not only for that town but for all the mining districts for 60 or 70 miles all around.
    This letter is already too long, and yet I have scarcely told half of what I have to say. The place where I write this is not very favorable to letter writing, as I am surrounded by a group of noisy miners and write on the counter in a store, but for the present, my lord, I have done. My health is still pretty tolerable. The road across the Coast Mountains is frightful, and I have every reason to be glad that I did not bring my horse, as I would undoubtedly have been obliged to leave him in the Into-Nothing, but a mule is capable of scaling the rocky cliffs and precipices of which the road for forty miles is almost entirely composed. My horse is on good grass and costs me nothing for keeping, whereas if I had him in Jacksonville he would cost me two dols. a day. The expense of traveling over those mountains exceeds anything I ever heard of in Oregon. The taverns on the mts. pack everything they use on mules--and then make travelers pay dearly for their trouble. Horse feed costs enormously. The worst kind of hay costs 12½ cents a pound--and barley the same. My money, however, is holding out well, and I hope by economy to get back with what money I brought with me. I despair of carrying back my buggy--the roads are too bad, and if rains fall before I leave the Rogue River Valley it will be utterly impossible. I am endeavoring to sell it, and if I get a fair price I shall willingly let it go. I don't know, according to what I have yet to do, whether I can get back to the Willamette before the end of Nov. I push things ahead as rapidly as I can. I baptized a child recently born in this town, but I have performed no other function, as I have got no jurisdiction in this diocese. Had I the power I could spend a week here very profitably, but as matters are I leave in a few hours.
    I recommend myself in conclusion to your lordship's fervent prayers and have the honor to remain
Your very humble servant
            James Croke

Winchester Nov. 1st 54           
    You are doubtless surprised at not hearing from me oftener, but since I last had the honor of writing to your lordship I have been so situated that it was almost impossible for me to send you a letter. Traveling along the seashore and through rough and unsettled mountains I have had no means of writing a line, as I had no writing materials, and even if I had I could find no means of sending you a letter. Even now I am striving to write you a line with a piece of stick, as they have no pens at the house where I have put up 6 miles from Winchester.
    Immediately after the date of my last letter I started from Crescent City to Jacksonville, visiting as I went along all the southern mines, and remaining a day at each mining district and generally, when I could collect an audience, preaching in the evening. The first mines I met traveling north E. from Crescent City was "Sailors Diggings"; they are only a few miles north of the California line and are 45 N.E. of Crescent City. I next visited Althouse, "Applegate Creek," Sucker Creek etc. and came by the "new diggings" on to Jacksonville. Sunday the 24th of Sep. I passed at Althouse, where I discovered a considerable number of Catholics. There are two small towns on the creek, one of which is called Frenchtown, having been first settled by a few French miners. About two o'clock, as soon as this trading was all over (for Sunday is the miner's market day), I took a boarding house bell and commenced ringing it in the middle of the street. I was soon surrounded by a large body of rough-looking miners in red shirts and long beards, and having announced to them my intention of preaching I led the way, bell in hand, to the ball alley, the only large building in the place. The house was full, and during the service, which lasted nearly two hours, I was listened to with profound attention. I was treated very kindly by them. Miners in general, though rough and careless, are tolerant and hospitable. Their cabin is ever open to the stranger, and their rough fare is proffered with an open heart. At Applegate Creek amongst other Canadians, I met Leake and his family. They are settled there and doing pretty well. I said mass at his house, at which a motley group of French, English and Mexicans assisted. I preached in Jacksonville twice and said mass on Sunday 1st Oct. I visited all the Rogue River settlements--the quarters of the soldiers, the greater part of whom are Caths., instructed and baptized old Joe the Rogue River big chief, who was dying of lingering fever, and finally left for Port Orford and the seaboard a few days afterwards. I have not time at present or means to describe my travels and my labor to your lordship. Now that I am once more in a civilized part of the country I shall take the earliest opportunity of writing you a full description of my adventures. Suffice it to say that I visited the seashore and all the settlements west of the Coast Mts., Coos Bay, Port Orford, Randolph and from the mouth of Rogue River to the mouth of the Umpqua, had difficulties to undergo that I by no means anticipated, and escaped from danger from which providence alone could have protected me. I have passed nights frequently in the midst of the wild woods, without fire, food or even a blanket to cover me from the cold, drenching rain. Still, thank God, I have through without serious injury, and have arrived here at the forks of the Umpqua on yesterday in good spirits and tolerable health. I said mass today at a Frenchman's called Archambault and had a congregation of about 20 Caths., all settled in the neighborhood. Tomorrow I start on my way home. My horse is still holding out well, but tired; I could not [omission] my buggy at Jacksonville, and brought back at much risk to here. My horse is too much exhausted, and the roads here too bad to carry it any farther, so I leave it here with the Frenchman until we can send for it in spring. My money, my lord, is almost exhausted. I have only $5 in my pockets even after selling my blanket for $10. I have friends, however, along the road, and if I can gain the Willamette I hope to be able to get home about the end of Nov. I recommend myself to your lordship's prayer and have the honor to remain etc. etc.
                                                                                    James Croke

Jacksonville Nov. 9th 1858
                      Nov. 24th   "
My Lord Archbishop
    I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Grace's two letters, one from Canyonville, and the other, on last evening, from Roseburg. I was sorry to learn by your letter from Canyonville of your sufferings and adventures during the first few days after leaving here, but I feel grateful that no serious accident occurred. Buggy riding in this country is rather adventurous, as I know by my own experience. As I leave Jacksonville today for Yreka in order to continue my mission I write your Grace a very brief account of my proceedings and success thus far.
    On the Sunday after your departure from here I said mass in Jacksonville, and on the following morning started for Althouse, via Sterlingville and Applegate in order to collect. I am sure your lordship will feel glad to learn that the Lord blessed the work and that I succeeded admirably well. I arrived at Sailor Diggings 70 miles from Jacksonville on Tuesday evening at 8 o'clock, and early on the following morning commenced collecting in a place called Allen Gulch, where the greater part of the miners are working. In two days I collected there $400 in in cash, a sum far above my most sanguine expectations for a place where are not more than about 70 men in all, and where they have been several months idle for want of water. Every man on the gulch, Catholic, Protestant and Orangeman gave something. The Catholics, God bless them, behaved nobly. In the friend's house where I generally stop I raised $200 in cash! One hundred from himself, fifty from his partner and fifty from his hands. This young man's name is Frank Larkins, and this is not the first time that I have had reason to be grateful for his generosity. I gave no credit--took no names down until I received the money, and thus I realized the $400 in cash. From Allen Gulch I started on Thursday for Althouse Creek, a distance of ten miles. As the mountains along the creek are very rough, and the miners generally work in the most rugged ravines, and in the bed of the creek, I was obliged to leave my horse at the "town" called Browntown and take it on foot for 3 days, traveling on an average 25 miles a day. At 8 o'clock on Friday I started up the creek with a Catholic young man as guide and at 5 o'clock that evening had $200 more collected in cash. The miners are so scattered and the road so rough that I only made 4 miles in a direct line during the whole day, though I suppose I walked at least 25. I stopped that night at a little trading post called "Grass Flat" and on the following morning continued my journey with another young man or guide for the forks of Althouse Creek. I made $198 that day, making in all for Althouse, with a few other dols. which I received, over $400. There are a great deal more miners here than in Allen Gulch, but very many of them are just returned from Fraser River, and are scarcely making their board. They all, however, paid a little. I took so small as 50 cents in a grocery from a man who was going to spend it for whiskey. I told him it would buy 2 lbs. of nails. The next day being Sunday I had no vestments (expecting to have been back in Jacksonville) and could not say mass. I am less scrupulous than your grace on the point of traveling on Sunday, so I walked back by a better road along the side of the mountains, my 2 days' journey in 3 hours to Browntown. That evening at 3 o'clock I started for Kerbyville, called to see Mr. Allen, who lives near it, for his subscription but received nothing from him. The next evening I started for Jacksonville and collected $50 more on the road and arrived in Jacksonville on Tuesday night, having been absent 8 days. I was very sorry not to be able to say mass on All Saints and All Souls, but it was impossible for me to get back sooner without leaving my job unfinished. Thus you see, my lord, that in this neglected part of Oregon I collected in a few days in cash the sum of $856 for a church to be built 65 miles from them. This was very fortunate, for otherwise I could scarcely meet the expenses as I have been able to collect only $30 in Jacksonville since you left. They all promise, will give their names very readily to be paid at some future day. But names won't build a church, and I can't spend much time idly. They promise, however, to pay when I come back. The poor miners, on whom alone I count, have nothing just now. My plan is to go to Yreka, and to return when the rain sets in and spend one or two days collecting before my final departure for Salmon River. Your lordship is no doubt anxious to hear about the church. It was raised on the Octave of All Saints 8 Nov., but as the carpenters are busy finishing Anderson's house (which will be finished in a few days) they are not able to go ahead as yet very rapidly. They have 2 carpenters at work dressing the siding. I have had a good solid wall of rock, pointed with mortar, built all around under the sills. It is nearly 2 ft. square at the corners. It costs about fifty dollars. Your lordship's suggestion about the height of the piers arrived too late to be attended to. The church now looks very high, and when completed will be a neat building. It looks very short. It is 36x23. I find that there is a great deal of lumber wanting. I got a bill today from the carpenters for 4000 ft. of different kinds, particularly siding and clear lumber for the belfry and spire which it seems was not calculated in the first bill given in by Father McPheely. There were also 200 ft. of hewed timber additional for a frame for the belfry and stays. This was not calculated either. Besides this I had to buy 4000 shingles more, making in all 10,000 shingles. As far as I can calculate the additional materials required, not counting nails or glass, will amount to $200.
    I have paid the carpenters today, according to contract $200. I have received the "deed" from Mr. Clugage and had it recorded here according to law. I have given orders before I go away for all the additional lumber, and arranged everything so that there can be no difficulty in my absence. All the money that I have received, including your lordship's hundred amounts to $980--300 of which I have expended. This, with what I hope to collected, will probably build the church. If I were not so hindered I have no doubt but that I would not leave it a dollar in debt. I have made out the old accounts as well as I could and squared up the books. When I leave this section for good I shall write your lordship a more detailed account. Any favors for the future from your grace must be directed to Yreka, Siskiyou Co., Cal. Recommending myself to your prayers I remain your lordship's very humble servant.
                                                                                        James Croke

Jacksonville O.T. Decr. 15/58        .
My Lord Archbishop
    I received your grace's favor of Nov. addressed to me to Yreka and was glad to learn that you got home safe. I left Yreka for this place on Monday Dec. 13 and leave tomorrow morning for home. I regret that I could not spend more than 2 days here. I have yet a good deal to do in Yreka, and have received a letter from Archbishop Allemany desiring me to be in San Francisco immediately after Christmas. I believe, however, that I have arranged matters here in such a way as that there will be no difficulty in the absence of a priest. As there has been yet no rain of any account I have been unable to collect any money amongst the miners here. They all promise, however, to contribute when they make something. I have collected $100 today, and closed my accounts with the Jacksonville church, leaving everything clearly marked in a book which I procured for that purpose. For your grace's satisfaction I give you a resume of the accounts.
Total collected by me to this date . . . . $1031.75
Total expended by         "     "      "    . . . .      480.54
Balance yet on hands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     551.21
This balance of $551.21 I have deposited in the hands of Mr. John Anderson to be expended as I instructed him, and have received his receipt for it, which I enclose your grace. Besides this sum of 551 dollars I have credit in two stores for $200 subscriptions to be taken out in nails, glass, paint and other necessaries for building, so that this sum on hands can be also most exclusively spent in paying carpenters as needed. I have received and paid for 5000 shingles more, 3000 ft. of lumber, so that all the materials required are now on the ground except about 500 ft of lumber. I have given Mr. Anderson a written authorization to transact all business for the church in paying out money, making contract with painter etc. and as he is a man of business and known integrity I feel sure he will act as if he were building for himself. I enclose your grace a copy of the "power" I gave him with an express proviso that he could incur no debts exceeding the amount of money on hands. This power you can retract when needed. Any instructions that you may have to give he will attend to, and will write occasionally to your grace informing you of the progress of affairs. There is no Catholic here who understands enough about business to be entrusted with the management of affairs. James Casey got sick and has gone down to San Francisco.
    There is yet due to the church on subscription $612, which cannot probably be collected before next spring. Anderson will do what he can to get it. On coming here from Yreka I was surprised to find so little done to the church in my absence. The carpenters give for excuse that they had not the necessary lumber for window frames, which must be thoroughly seasoned. They have planed all the siding and flooring, have all the lumber required now and will go ahead as quick as necessary with the work. I am sure your grace sees the necessity of sending a priest to the district as soon as possible. If possible he should speak English perfectly and preach well. All here send your grace their respectful compliments. If at any time, consistently with obedience to my superior I can do any good for any portion of Oregon I will be happy in being at your lordship's disposal. I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you soon in San Francisco, and recommending myself to your lordship's prayers I have the honor to remain, with due esteem and respect,
Your very humble and
    Obedient Servnt
        James Croke
P.S.  I send you the new deed for church lots, signed by Mr. Clugage.

Yreka Dec. 17th 1858               
My Lord Archbishop
    On the eve of my departure from Jacksonville 15 inst. I wrote your grace a letter giving an account of the final arrangements which I made for that church, and enclosing Mr. Anderson's receipt for $551.20 which I deposited with him. Lest this receipt may be lost I thought it better to write you another letter from here informing you of it. I posted my letter yesterday morning in Jacksonville before I left. I arrived here last night at 10½ o'clock. The letter that your lordship wrote me from Col. Kenney's I have not recd. I was anxious about it, as I expected to get some news in it about old O'Kelly's family, who live 14 miles north of Eugene City on the Corvallis road. They are all converts and would require to be seen to as they are only partially instructed.
    I leave here, my lord, for San Francisco on the 26th inst. I don't feel very well and would like to have a little repose. Since I saw your grace I have been continually on horseback and can't have traveled less than 700 miles through some of the roughest mountains in California. In summer it is pleasant, but in winter it is very hard. The cold is very great here. We had 2 ft. of snow on the Siskiyou Mts. between Yreka and Jacksonville. A few feet more and the road will be closed. May I trouble your grace to remember me to Fathers O'Reilly, Delornie, Mesplie and Macken, also to Madame Lucier. Wishing your lordship many happy returns of the approaching festival I have the honor to remain, most respectfully,
Your very humble and
        Obedient Servant
                James Croke
Father James Croke letters, 1853-1874

Last revised June 7, 2019