James Clark Tolman
Table Rock, Rogue River Valley,H. P. Graves,
Oregon, Sep. 20th, 1852.
My dear old friend:--I am very happy to inform you that we arrived in Yreka, Siskiyou County, Cal., on the 24th of Aug. last, all well, in fine spirits and without any loss of property. Yreka is situated on the Shasta mines, where we left our families some 12 days while we looked at the valley of Shasta and Scott River. These valleys are very fine to look at, but the frost too frequent for raising vegetables, the winter too severe for stock; ascertaining these facts to my satisfaction, I believed I could do better in this valley, and moved in 4 families, viz.: Dr. Coffin, Tenbrook, Geo. Rodgers and myself, crossed the Siskiyou Mountains to this place, distance from Yreka 70 miles. This is a beautiful little valley, well watered and plenty of timber; portions of it rich soil and susceptible of being cultivated. It lays much lower than the two valleys above spoken of, consequently a very mild climate and a fine range for stock everywhere about here. I have got me a claim on a half section of very fine land, 2 miles northeast of and in sight of the town of Table Rock, the only town in this valley.
The Rogue River gold diggings are within 2 miles of my ranch. The diggings were not discovered until last Feb., and could not be worked much on account of the hostility of the Indians, until the water failed in most of the gulches; a few, however, yet afford water for running rockers. As good a proportion of the miners in this vicinity who have water are doing as well as in any mines I have been in. One company of 5 men have been making from $100 to $2000 per day, frequently making $1000 per day. They took out one lump a few days since worth $1200, and took out the same day over $600 besides. Every week brings about some new development of more extensive rich diggings in the hills and gulches that surround this valley. Upon the whole, I believe the mines will be lasting in south Oregon and will yield abundantly to the lucky few, while the many poor fellows must ever feel the pains of an empty pocket, go where they may. This valley was commenced being settled last winter, but did not make much headway on account of the Indians, until about 7 weeks ago the settlers and miners had a big fight with them and whipped them out; since that they are very friendly and no doubt will remain so because they can't help themselves.
I am putting up cabins to live in--will have them done this week. I intend to fence and break up ten acres of ground within the next 4 weeks, ready for putting in all kinds of vegetables in Feb. next. There is but little preparation for farming in this valley next year. I don't think any other man will have one-half that much in cultivation, and very few any. Everything in the like of farming pays well. There are 2 gardens in the valley that were attended to and have yielded abundantly. Potatoes 40 cts. and onions 50 cts per pound; everything else in the way of gardening in the same proportion, and is likely to remain so for some time. Flour 23¢ to 25¢ per lb., butter $1.00 to $1.50 per lb., according to its freshness; beef 12¢ to 15¢ per lb. &c. &c. What I expect to do after fencing and plowing. Shall pitch into the mines and try my luck again--if I strike it big I shall stick to it until next spring, but in the meantime will have my garden planted, for I am bound to play "Roots awern" [sic--possibly "play roots" on 'em] pretty strong next summer or have it done.
Next spring so soon as the waters will admit of it, I expect to undertake an exploring expedition to the coast. From San Francisco to the mouth of the Columbia there are no good ports of entry, nor safe harbors for vessels, a distance of 700 miles, and the few landings have been made are hardly accessible from the country by pack animals. This whole extent of country gets its supplies from these extremes. You must know that something big lies in the middle. Scottsburg will not do: immovable mountains close in until they can only get the town 8 lots wide, and many others in the way. There is a bay discovered I have every reason to believe just above the mouth of Coos River, south of the mouth of Umpqua River, and next thing is to get a road to it and get a foothold. There is said to be a fine country adjoining the bay, but inhabited only by Indians. I intend to make a bold push among the first, for I believe it will pay well and [be] a comfortable place to live. We should have went in this fall, but it was too late to do anything with safety. It may take three months to find a pass to it, but the Coast Range of mountains are very rugged and hard to pass in the snowy season. I am now in my elements. I am again in a wide and open field for daring enterprise. No little 8 by 10 stove room is necessary to keep warmth in man that blood may circulate in his veins. The surrounding mountains are his only hindrance, and to penetrate them the farthest is one of "man's proudest efforts" here.
The situation of the valleys on the Pacific side: They lay between the Sierra Nevada, Cascade and Coast ranges. The valley of Sacramento in the south, Scott and Shasta valleys north, are separated by the Trinidad Mountains putting up from the Coast Range and connecting with the Sierra Nevada. Scott and Shasta are separated from Rogue River Valley in like manner by the Siskiyou Mountain, and Rogue River and Umpqua valleys by the Umpqua Range of mountains in like manner.
You who have been ever accustomed to seeing endless regions of rich land, susceptible of settlement and cultivation, would pass these valleys by unnoticed, for they are small and wind about through the range of mountains and [are] spotted with small buttes or mounds like islands. The low mountains and buttes are covered with grass as well as the level portion of the valley. Grazing is extensive, also the mining district, while farming land is limited so much so that competition in that line will never bring prices low. Enough about the country and that climate, and I don't suppose you care or are much interested in either.
Now the way we came and how we got here &c. &c.
As I wrote you from Ft. Laramie, we left the Missouri River on the 19th of May, came on 14 wagons in company, followed up the north side of Platte and the usual route to junction of Salt Lake road. There instead of taking Sublette's Cutoff across the 53-mile desert to Green River to Salt Lake road 30 miles to junction of Kinney's Cutoff, took it, crossed Green River and intersected before getting to Hams Fork of same, thence old route to Soda Springs on Bear River and to the junction of the Oregon and California roads. Now I started for Rogue River Valley, Oregon, and it was evident from the geography of the country that it was 300 miles nearer to that part of Oregon by the southern route or the Applegate route than by the northern route to Oregon City. So resolved to take the nearest shot, hit or miss, believing I could go where anyone else could, thence California road to junction Lassen route on Humboldt. There we took the Lassen route to California, as far as Goose Lake, crossing that terrible desert about which so much fuss has been made since '49; we continued the Applegate route northwest to Klamath Lake. There were 14 wagons ahead of us on this route, and at Klamath Lake they took the left, leaving the Oregon road, passing between Shasta Butte and Sheep Rock, striking the head of Shasta Valley, passing down to Yreka, the county seat of the northern county in California. We concluded to take a look at that country too, and followed their trail. We traveled about 70 miles out of our way in coming here and had a worse road, but we got to satisfy ourselves with the country in northern California. Many who took the northern road by Oregon City for this valley have not got in yet. Two or three wagons got in a day or two ago.
As to crossing the plains it is no hardship for me. I would do it once a year for ten years if it were profitable. I enjoyed myself better than I could have done in Iowa, although I performed the most laborious part, viz.: Grass hunter, camp locator and general guide and director for the company. Performed the trip on muleback and necessarily had to ride several miles farther than the noted "Ottumwa Iowa Horse Train." Traveled most every day. I got into that station from necessity--to save my own stock, for there was no one else to do it that seemed to give any satisfaction. Whether I did nor not I don't know nor care, they never complained to me. The train hung together through to Yreka, the only one I know of doing so on the plains this season. I do not think however it was on account of any particular pains that was taken to keep them together, nor any particular LOVE for each other, but some like sheep herded in for fear of danger--while others, dronelike, chimed in with the noise ahead, indifferent to all else. Summing our company all up, they would make a very good average, for we had some as good ones and some as mean ones as could be scared up on the plains, all good enough in their places, but the plains don't suit them.
The "Injuns." We had no trouble with them on the trip, nor lost anything, for we guarded our stock every night from the Mo. River to Yreka. Some companies lost nearly their whole train of animals by not guarding. You will no doubt see accounts in the papers of the great difficulties between the emigrants on our route and the Modoc Indians, situated at Tule Lake on the sink of Lost River, 20 miles below the natural bridge. They had committed some depredations on those that preceded us a day or two, by killing a few scattered men and giving hard battle to the main company, wounding 2 or 3 of them. A pack company of 8 men in our rear 1 or 2 days were surrounded and killed, save one man. Another train of wagons were surrounded by the Indians; some 3 or 4 fine men from Yreka, who had went out to meet the emigrants, were killed, but the train was rescued by Ben Wright, a celebrated Indian fighter, and his party of whites and Shasta Indians. Ben pitched in, shot down some 18 or 20 Modocs, pursued the army through the tules to the lake where they took canoes, and then he raked them from stem to bow, canoes upsetting, squaws and papooses floating about in the lake, and a noted Indian of Ben's party, named Swill, swam in and commenced a war of extermination. Caught every squaw and papoose he could get sight of, put them under and held them there until drowned. They are still fighting them and will exterminate them if possible. The Modocs are some 5 or 600 strong, and have a cave in a rock butte, situated in the center of the marsh where they retreat to whenever pursued. The cave is thought to be one mile in length, well furnished with provisions, water and munitions of war of their kind. The entrance is small and cannot be passed on account of the shower of arrows let loose by those devils that occupy that pit. Ben Wright had them in there some two weeks last winter; tried to smoke them out, couldn't do it. He says if he can run them all in again he can save [sic] them. I think he intends to drill a hole through the rock overhead and blast them out, then kill them as they attempt to make their escape. We met a party of some 16 men from Yreka, at Goose Lake, 2 of whom returned with us, and from one of them, a Mr. Fraim, we ascertained the precise location of the Indians. Knowing our situation, having 6 or 7 families, a large amount of stock and only about ten well-armed men that would do to aid in a fight. I told Mr. Fraim we must defeat them by stratagem. I could not make a single man realize the fact that there was any danger of a fight, and if it did come off it would be unexpected and confusion would follow. The Indians were concealed in 2 parties, one in the rocks, and the other in the tules ahead. The road as usually traveled passed close by the side of those in the rocks. before arriving at their hiding place, we took to the right, passed them unnoticed and was near up to the band in the tules before they discovered us. When they seen us they came in hot pursuit. It would have done you good to see some of our brave Indian fighters look wild. The cry of stop and help us; drive them Indians back, they will overtake us--lets us ascertain what they mean. Ahead one-half mile we had to make a narrow pass and then the upper band. We crowded on, drove those back in the tules, and gained the advantage of the ground and passed secure by where they could not get to us without exposing themselves in the open field; that they were afraid to do. We then played the bluff game on them. They said they did not want to fight. Why? Because we had gained an advantage over them in the ground. Their warriors were sticking up as thick as cornstalks on the rocks, springing their bows and throwing themselves into all kinds of postures, whooping and yelling like a thousand coyotes. Had I stopped when nearly all wanted to (and to stop their soliciting I had to use some rough language) we would have been surrounded and cut off beyond a doubt. The plans of the Indians were as plain as day, and they could all see them after it was all over. Every company that have been caught there have been out-managed. Mr. Fraim and myself agreed precisely on the plain of operating, and he played a good part in the tules while I led the train at a proper distance from the rocks. Some of our boys were cool and decided, while others--. There was several in that didn't belong to Ottumwa; fell in with on the way.
So ends the trip. As all are writing it will be unnecessary for me to speak of their affairs. As you are aware I left Oskaloosa with 3 wagons, 2 horses and 5 mules. Well, I traded off one horse for mules, sold the Jim horse I got from Mudge. I arrived at Yreka with the same 3 mares and the same 5 mules and six other mules and 4 wagons and am out for the additional 6 mules and one wagon $240, all honest fair trading. I am offered $900 for 6 of my mules, but they will be worth $1200 when fat. My stock, 14 head, came through in good condition. My mares are worth $200 each, will not sell any until spring.
Give my respects to all friends, and show this letter to Mr. Comer; if he is not there write to him, also to Silas and Mr. Leighton and my wife's people, for I shall not have time to write any more for one month at least. Direct to Oregon City, Oregon. City is some 270 miles north of this. Give my respects to Dr. Warden, Mudge and all friends; tell them I will write in due time. Emily sends her love to all; she is well, perfectly satisfied and happy. Tell the little girls not to marry until they get here; I will ensure them husbands.
Very respectfully yours,Des Moines Courier, Ottumwa, Iowa, December 9, 1852, page 2
JAMES C. TOLMAN.
Called on Judge Tolman, and were entertained by his estimable lady, who was kind enough to chaperone us through the medical bath-rooms, where waters from the caloric springs in the vicinity flow into the cisterns in quantity sufficient for the convalescence of all the afflicted of this region. Of a tepid temperature, the water is just right for baths; their medical properties have been proved and acknowledged. The Judge would confer a favor by throwing them open for public use, or renting them out to some professional Teuton, who is entrusted with the ropes d'eau seltzer.
To be on the safe side, we drink a few quarts of this water to wet down the dust and counteract the effect of the sirocco blasts of yesterday.
After seeing the points of the Judge's beautiful farm (which, by the way, is quite a little principality, well appointed, furnished and governed, and he is a whole-souled monarch--long may he reign and survey!) we unroll the calico transports from their moorings, near the residence of the "contraband" aforesaid, and get under way again.
"Rough Sketches of a Few Days in the Mountains," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, August 10, 1861, page 2
In the fall or winter of 1853, the existence of Coos Bay having become known among the venturous spirits who thronged the shores of the Pacific at that period, Mr. James C. Tolman, the present Surveyor General of this state, came here to seek a field for profitable investment. He noted the advantages of the different points on the bay, and selected the present town site of Marshfield as the point designated by nature as the future emporium of the bay. He took possession of the tract and built a double log house on the hill land; the same house was formerly occupied by Capt. George Hamilton, now owned by John Bear and occupied by Mr. Malarkey. In the spring of 1854, two men named Williams and Crosby entered the bay with a small vessel, and a contract was made between them and Tolman, by the terms of which Williams and Crosby agreed to put up a store and warehouse and to bring on a stock of goods and inaugurate the business of merchandising. They were to receive from Tolman two lots each as an inducement to this enterprise. About this time, the channel as far as this point was sounded, and the place was named Marshfield. It has ever since been popularly known as the town or site of Marshfield. Empire City had already been founded by the association known as the Coos Bay Company, and the local jealousy which has since existed with varying intensity then commenced. The store was immediately built near where Mr. Kerrigan''s hotel now stands, and a kind of wharf was constructed, but Williams and Crosby never returned, nor sent on the merchandise to establish business. Tolman carried on some trade with the Indians, but no regular trade was established till some two years later. In the summer of 1854, Mr. Tolman admitted one A. J. Davis to one half interest in the Marshfield claim, and on account of the declining health of his wife decided to remove to Jackson County. Davis was a man of some means and a speculator who could not afford to settle up on the claim and hold it in person; so he hired a young man named Wilkins Warwick to represent him upon the claim, and Tolman employed one Ad. Gaskill, and these men were placed in possession of the claim for Davis and Tolman. Gaskill afterwards left the place, but Warwick was furnished with employment by Davis and maintained an irregular residence upon the place, living in the old Tolman house and keeping a kind of hotel till 1856, when he turned it over to Davis and left Oregon for Iowa, where he now resides. During the time when he resided on this claim as agent as before mentioned, he was simply an agent and hired man of A. J. Davis, receiving $50 per month for his services.
Before leaving, at Davis' suggestion he made a "notification" upon the Marshfield claim under the donation law of Oregon, and after he left, Davis, in Warwick's name, deposited money in the Land Office sufficient to pay for the land at $1.25 per acre. This payment was authorized by the donation law to be made after the survey and one year's residence and cultivation, in lieu of one year's residence. Warwick's settlement was dated Aug. 4, 1854 but on the 17th of July, 1854, an Act of Congress had been duly passed and approved, which provided that "The donations hereafter to be surveyed in Oregon and Washington Territories, shall in no case include a town site or lands settled upon for the purposes of business or trade, and not for agriculture." The irregular and suspicious character of this entry stood in the way of the issuance of a patent for many years.
Soon after making payment on the Marshfield claim, Davis, having sunk a large amount of money in a coal mine near where Lobree's mill now stands, also turned his back on Oregon forever. One Capt. Hatch and Dr. Ferber were in possession of the Marshfield claim for a year or two after Davis' departure, as agents for Davis and Tolman, and in pursuance of a contract made some years before, early in 1857, a survey of a portion of the claim into blocks and lots was made and a plat of the town was prepared.
"The Settlement and Early Settlers of Coos Bay," Coast Mail, Marshfield, Oregon, October 25, 1879, page 3
VINEYARDS.--We learn that Judge Tolman has purchased a tract of two hundred acres in the upper part of the valley for the purpose of planting a vineyard. The grape culture will eventually become a prominent enterprise of this valley. Rogue River Valley produces as good grapes as the best of the California grape regions. We venture the prediction that every hillside with a southern exposure, now regarded as comparatively worthless, will in a few years be covered with vineyards and become a source of revenue. As an evidence of the value of grape-producing lands in California we take the following from an article in the Scientific Press on savings banks vs. California improvements:
"For instance we published in our last week's issue the fact that Mr. Bugbey of the Natoma vineyard, in an action against the Natoma Canal Co. for damages in going through his vineyard, showed by several witnesses that eighty-five to ninety thousand of his vines produced from 600 to 890 tons of grapes, worth at least $50 per ton, or more than $30,000, and that after the commissioner had taken testimony in the case for more than twenty days, and had visited the place, they rendered an award in favor of Bugbey and others for nearly $2,000 per acre for that land and vines thereon used and destroyed by the company. Again it is a notorious fact that the product of good vineyards throughout the state is at least three tons of grapes a year, and that they are sold at from $20 to $30 a ton for wine purposes."
No good reason exists why the culture of the grape in this valley should not be as profitable as in California. The climate and soil are equally as favorable, and we hope to see our farmers, especially those who possess hill lands, follow Judge Tolman's example.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, May 27, 1871, page 2
TOLMAN AT HOME.The Jacksonville Times, commenting on the Radical nominations, thus speaks of Judge Tolman, Radical nominee for Governor:
"The hugest joke of all was the nomination of Judge Tolman, of this county, for Governor. A more preposterous burlesque on that office could not be perpetrated. When men of ability like Judge Boise and Dr. Geary are thrust aside to make room for such caliber as Mr. Tolman, there certainly must be trickery somewhere, or perverted taste predominating. Personally we have the highest regard for him. That he has not the slightest qualification for the office is but too well known. The Mitchipple programme no doubt is to use him as a tool to their jobbery, in case of his election, of which there is not the remotest possibility. His nomination is in direct opposition to the wishes of leading Republicans of his own county, and he will not poll his party vote by considerable."
Speaking of Tolman as County Judge of Jackson County, and the excuses made by our Radical friends for placing in nomination a man so wholly unfit for that position, the Times further remarks:
"His administration was noted for nothing save the arbitrary manner in which he treated persons of opposite views. Among his most notorious performances was where he assumed, without any authority whatever, to declare his party sheet the litigant paper of the county. Nearly every little notice within the jurisdiction of his court was suffixed by the words "published in the Oregon Sentinel by order of Hon. J. C. Tolman, County Judge." Although a standing candidate ever since, his party deemed one infliction of him amply sufficient, and the "statesman" was ignominiously consigned to his tannery until the present time, when his virtue of obscurity and harmonizing proclivities call him to bear the Radical standard."
And this is the man, fellow citizens, that you are requested to support. We opine that he, if free from all other burdens, would not be able to carry himself safely through the political fire of the county canvass to say nothing of the heavy load which he is compelled to bear in consequence of representing the Hipple faction of the Republican Party. He is as good a man, however, as could have been selected for defeat which is sure to come.
Liberal Republican, Dallas, Oregon, April 18, 1874, page 2
WHAT CHIEF JUSTICE JACOBS SAYS.
Hon. Orange Jacobs, Chief Justice of Washington Territory, who is widely known in this state as a man of ability, culture and judgment, writes thus in regard to Hon. J. C. Tolman.
Seattle, W.T., April 13, 1874.I lived in Jackson County from 1857 to 1860. During all this time I was personally and intimately acquainted with J. C. Tolman. He is a man of great independence of character and of uncompromising integrity. No rings or cliques can buy or intimidate him, or sway him from the line of his convictions.
During eight years of the above time he was County Judge of Jackson County. He does not claim to be a technical lawyer, but he is well read in the statutory law of the state, and has devoted a good deal of time and attention to the principles of the common law. Appeals were frequently taken from his decisions as County Judge, but I do not remember of a single instance in which his judgment was reversed by the Appellate Court.
When he was elected County Judge, Jackson County was near $20,000 in debt. At the end of his administration the county was out of debt and quite an amount of money in her treasury. Such is his record as shown by his acts.
Yours truly,Farmers and voters of Oregon, compare this testimony of disinterested witnesses with the cramped, prejudiced statement of W. Lair Hill, who is now laboring both in the Oregonian and privately to defeat Tolman and to elect Grover.
Oregon State Journal, Eugene, June 6, 1874, page 4
JACKSON COUNTY LEATHER.--We clip the following flattering description of the leather Judge Tolman has on exhibition at the Siskiyou County Fair from the Yreka Journal of Wednesday last:
H. J. Minnes, the superintendent of the Rogue River Tannery, owned by Judge Tolman, was in town last week with eleven different varieties of leather, which he placed on exhibition at our county fair. For fine finish and superior tanning they certainly stand unrivaled, and reflect great credit on the skill of Mr. Minnes. The different varieties are as follows: Harness, skirting, black bridle, fair bridle, grained, black upper, buffed upper, waxed upper, waxed kip, waxed calfskin, grained black calfskin and black buckskin, the latter being in great demand all over the Coast, this tannery having filled large orders from various sections. All judges of good leather speak very complimentarily of the samples exhibited, and the Society awarded the exhibitor a diploma, as the leather coming from another state, Oregon, could not compete for cash premiums. We are gratified to see our home industry prove so successful, as Ashland is so near to us as to be considered a home section, which place also boasts a fine woolen mill. We see no reason why tanneries, woolen factories, paper mills and various other industries cannot be carried on successfully in Southern Oregon and Northern California, to keep our money at home and bring money to us for our skill in manufacturing staple articles, just as the towns of New England are built up and sustained so prosperously.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, October 17, 1874, page 2
GEN. JAMES CLARK TOLMAN.--One of the leading citizens of Jackson County and foremost among the representative men of Oregon is Gen. James Clark Tolman, Surveyor General of this state. A man of great decision of character and executive ability, he has always occupied the position of leader of his fellow men, and after fifty years of active participation in the affairs of his country retains the confidence and respect of not only his political associates, but of adherents to the opposing party. From his youth an enthusiastic Whig, he has been, during the lifetime of the party, a consistent and unswerving, Republican. He comes of a family of patriots and pioneers, and inherited the genuine pioneer instincts, those of the higher type--not the feeling that makes one shun the intellectual advantages and refinements of older communities because of a lack of sympathy with, and appreciation of, them, but that nobler sentiment which impels its possessor to carve out his own fortune from the crude material and to develop and improve the wilderness in accordance with the creator's plan of upward progression. His father, Seth Tolman, was of Holland extraction and Mary, his mother, English, a daughter of Captain Clark, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, serving in the ranks of the Continentals from the Boston Tea Party till the close of the long struggle for independence. When the war was over his parents settled in Washington County, Pennsylvania, but by discreet conduct managed to escape ruin from the devastations of the Tom Tinker whisky insurrectionists. They next removed to Marietta, Ohio, where they were frequently compelled to "fort up" in blockhouses with their neighbors to defend themselves from hostile Indians. Judge Tolman was born in Washington County, Ohio, March 12, 1813, and eight years later moved with his parents to Champaign County, in the same state. Those were the pioneer days of Ohio, when log houses were the only habitations, and these few and far between, and when the little log school house held sway. In such a house he lived, and in such he received his education--and it might be said that from such have sprung many of the greatest men of our nation, not the least of which are Lincoln, Chase, Grant and Garfield. At the age of seventeen he apprenticed himself to Jesse C. Phillips (a cousin of Tom Corwin), and spent three years in learning the business of manufacturing leather. He then entered the university at Athens, Ohio, pursuing English branches with characteristic assiduity for a year, during which time he also imbibed much knowledge of a useful and practical nature by the exertion of his great powers of observation. For several years he engaged in various pursuits, lending to each his full energy and enthusiasm, and being an earnest supporter of General Harrison and the unsuccessful Whig ticket in 1836. The family, consisting of father, mother, two brothers and himself (a sister and brother having died), removed to Iowa in 1839, and settled in Van Buren County, [and] began again a genuine pioneer life. Land claimants were bought out and 200 acres of land were bid in at public sale in Burlington, and the Gen. engaged in farming, encountering all the trials and hardships of a frontier life. Iowa at that time was strongly Democratic, yet he adhered firmly to his Whig principles. He was placed on the ticket of that party for the territorial legislature, and though party lines were closely drawn and a warm canvass followed, during which he was the only Whig speaker on the ticket, he obtained 400 Democratic votes and only missed 60 votes of being elected. In the fall of 1845 he removed to Ottumwa and engaged in the manufacture of leather. Here he was again placed on the Whig ticket, contrary to his desires, but accepted the nomination at the solicitation of friends who urged that his opponent was hard to defeat. The whole county ticket was elected, though the Democratic territorial ticket received 125 majority. In 1844 his thoughts turned towards the Pacific, and when news of the gold discovery reached Iowa in the fall of 1848, he began preparing to seek the El Dorado in the spring. In due time he started, and as sole pilot of an ox team he arrived in the mines on the seventh of October, 1849. Declining several advantageous business offers, he went to work with the pick and shovel as a genuine miner. His usual energy and attention to his business won him success, and he returned to Iowa in the fall of 1851 well rewarded for his California venture. Ill health during the winter caused him to wind up his business and prepare to again seek the shores of the Pacific. On the twenty-seventh of April, 1852, he was married to Elizabeth E. Coe, of Oskaloosa, Iowa, and within forty-eight hours was again en route across the plains, the pilot and general adviser of ten wagons of emigrants. The train reached Yreka in 82 days without the loss of an animal, notwithstanding they had to fight their way through the Modoc country. Gen. Tolman crossed the Siskiyous into Rogue River Valley with a portion of the train, arriving the last of August, and bringing the first families to the valley from across the plains direct. He purchased the rights of two squatters and began preparing for raising stock. Early in 1853, perceiving the impending trouble with the Indians, he took his stock to California and sold them. He then went to Coos Bay to look after some investments he had made there for two young men, and returned to the valley in time to sit on the coroner's jury which investigated the death of the first white victim in the Indian war of 1853. When the war was over he sold out his place, and with his wife and one child took a muleback ride to Empire City, on Coos Bay. He soon withdrew from the company without realizing anything on his investment, and took up a half section of land upon which is located the town of Marshfield, where he erected a rude house for his family. He spent the spring of 1854 in exploring that region, being the first white man to open a trail across the isthmus between Coos Bay and Coquille River. In August, 1854, he returned to Rogue River Valley, leaving his claim in charge of another man, who sold it out and vamoosed. The Judge upon his return to the valley purchased for $8,500 the ranch he now owns, including the stock thereon, and again engaged in stock raising. When the Indian war broke out in 1855, he hastily gathered his stock and drove them to California, and sold them for what they would bring. It was two years before he could resume his business. He then purchased blooded stock--English turf horses, Morgans and Lionhearts--and in a few years realized handsomely on his investment. The severe winters of 1861-2 almost annihilated his band of cattle. When the state government was organized in 1858, Mr. Tolman was elected Judge of Jackson County by a large majority although three-fourths of the voters were Democrats. He was re-elected in 1862, defeating his opponent two to one. In this important position he was enabled during the critical times of the Civil War to do more than anyone else to prevent open hostilities; also to reduce taxation fifty percent, and rescue the county from threatened bankruptcy. He was nominated for Governor on the Republican ticket in 1874, but the formation of a third party gave the administration into the hands of the Democracy, and he accepted his defeat with becoming resignation. In 1878 Judge Tolman was appointed Surveyor General of Oregon by President Hayes, and reappointed by President Arthur in 1882. His administration of the affairs of that office meets with the hearty approval of the administration and of the people generally. He is firm and prompt in the discharge of his official duties, and never has his integrity or motives been impeached. During half a century of active business and official life he has won and retains the respect of all with whom he has come in contact, irrespective of their political opinions; and though he has never sought election or appointment to office, they have both come to him unsolicited. In these days of machine politics and corruption in office, it should be Oregon's boast that she possesses an official who occupies a higher plane. Gen. Tolman's portrait appears in this work.
A. G. Walling, History of Southern Oregon, 1884, pages 541-542
To California in '49--A Rough Lot on the Plains.
J. C. Tolman Tells His Experience--An Interesting Narrative--
The Golden Prize Comes After Much Toil and Hardship.
JAMES CLARK TOLMAN,
one of the oldest and best known, as well as most popular, of the citizens of Southern Oregon, for years past the efficient Surveyor-General of the United States for Oregon, has a genealogy that dates back to early New England times, and includes a grandfather who was one of the most active in asserting and maintaining American independence. He was one of the party, disguised as Indians, who threw overboard the British tea in Boston Harbor. He raised the first company that was enlisted for the Revolutionary War in Boston, and was present with it at Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill, and served through the war. Tolman's mother was a little girl 8 or 9 years old at the time the last battle was fought, and often told him how she watched every phase of the battle from a safe eminence nearby.
Our J. C. Tolman was born in Ohio, and when 26 years old moved to Iowa, in 1839. He is now nearly 73 years of age and carries his three score and ten as well as many do a mere half century. Time, and his own good judgment, have dealt kindly with him. He prospered fairly in the West [i.e., Ohio], and by hard work and good management had a sawmill, doing a good business, in Van Buren County. In 1844 a heavy freshet, or flood, came and swept this property away, leaving him $600 in debt, but the owner of 200 acres of land. This he put in the hands of a brother to be sold for his debt. He then went to Ottumwa, Wapello County, and in 1815 was interested in a tannery. He engaged for a salary to be clerk in a store, with leave to manage his tannery business. At the election for county officers he was elected county clerk, so he did not lack business. He employed a deputy for the office and managed to keep all things going. The concern he was with in one season loaded thirteen flatboats with wheat for New Orleans.
THE STORY OF CALIFORNIA GOLD.About 1848 times became fearfully depressed. The few land sales that were made drained the country of money, and ambitious and enterprising men looked about for anything to claim their attention and offer better results. Many were ready for any sort of an opening, when word came that gold was discovered in California. Men who had secured the country to buy wheat for three bits a bushel, and had scarce made a living profit at that, heard with wonder of the rich diggings that waited for their coming in the wild Sierras of California. So a number of young men determined to make the trip, Tolman among them. They talked of going by water, but transport from Panama to San Francisco was so uncertain that they concluded to make the long land journey in preference. They had to get ox teams, and being versed in bovine lore, looked out for lively beasts that could travel well.
By sharp trading they procured good stock, and six of them--out of twenty who talked of going--actually outfitted. They started with wagons heavily loaded, but they soon learned that would not do, and sold off a part of their loading. They finally left Kanesville, Iowa, May 13, in good shape for their long journey of 2000 miles or more. The company divided up at the Missouri River, and Tolman fell in with a party of six wagons, under one Sawen, who had them all organized as a regiment. He had been in the Florida war, and was full of experience of Indian fighting. Six wagons made a company, and each had officers, from captain to corporal. This Sawen was an arrant coward and great braggadocio, and a few of them who loved a joke played him for all he was worth. They induced him to strut for days in an old militia uniform one of his men had, as the effect they told him would be to terrify the savages. They got him to order all loose men to march, with guns shouldered, by the side of the wagons. They played all sorts of tricks on his vanity and credulity, and he never saw through them. This formidable array soon went to pieces, and the company divided into small parties that had no trouble. There was no danger from Indians in '49, and only for the cholera, and human weakness and meanness, travel on the plains was rather pleasant. Our sketch of this journey to California shows how greatly the emigrations differed in Oregon and to the gold fields. Those for Oregon had families, and had only proper and reasonable desires, while those for California were all greedy for gold. Not the sort necessary to settle a country, and the very sort to make trouble and difficulty as they went. We give it greatly for the sake of the contrast.
ADVENTURES ON THE PLAINS.Passing up the Platte, one of the men in Tolman's train took the cholera, and his partners left him for dead and went to sleep. Tolman had medicines, and none of the rest had, so he furnished all who were ill. He saw that this man was alive, so he put up a tent for him and worked all night with him. At 2 o'clock he came to and grew better. His partners were not successful in appropriating his share of team and loading and saw him appear with more surprise than pleasure. He lived to show his appreciation that he owed his life to Tolman. This little incident illustrates how brutal some men became on the plains. Unless a man had true character he sometimes lost all humanity. This was more the case where there were only men and no families in the company.
Tolman got along very well without Col. Sawen and his private secretary, but fell among meaner men than the "Spartan Band" contained, for that was the name Sawen gave his caravan. If this was a place to tell of humorous dealings we could fill columns with the ludicrous antics and various performances of Col. Sawen, how his courage oozed when it should not, etc., but we will push on towards California.
Tolman and two others kept together through the central desert of Utah and Nevada. At one place there was a ferry made of two cottonwood canoes and puncheons across them. Every party had to pay $30 for its use and get the money back from the next comer. The last party that crossed of course lost the whole $30. That was the way business was done on the plains in '49. They fell in with six or seven wagons, under Capt. Eckard, a very clever man, who had a bad lot with him. They couldn't treat him meanly enough and couldn't elect anyone else. There were several chronic cases of growling and quarreling among this party. Tolman's partner had two brothers in the crowd; one of them had died of cholera and the other growled for two. Their name was Groule, suggestive and appropriate.
THIRSTY WAITING ON THE DESERT.On Humboldt it was necessary to make a night drive on the desert, as the days were intolerable and no water to be had. About 2 o'clock the majority determined to stop and make coffee and so lost time that was invaluable. The heat and the hot sand the next day overpowered the cattle so that they gave out ten miles from their destination and could not haul the wagons. They drew lots to decide who should stay there and guard the wagons while the rest drove the cattle on to water. The lot fell on Tolman and a little Missourian who was "all tow and fire." They stretched a wagon sheet from one wagon to another, laid some hay down on the ground and spread their blankets. They could not eat without they had drink, and they had no drink. Resigning himself to it, Tolman slept most of the time, but the Missourian fumed. Time passed in such a situation is not agreeable by any means. That day went; the next night and all the next day, and they suffered the torments of thirst. On the next night there came back four men with the animals, and they brought about a pint of water in a canteen. Coming only ten miles and at night, and after a long rest and plenty to drink, the miserable wretches had actually nearly drunk all the water they had with them and left to suffer those men who had not drunk for several days. Tolman took it philosophically, as he had not suffered a great deal, but the little Missourian, his companion, had fretted so as to aggravate his physical sufferings, and when he realized that the canteens were empty he raved in a strain of profanity that equaled the situation and the surroundings. This incident illustrates the ineffable and contemptible meanness and selfishness of human nature under difficulties. The teams were hitched up and driven at a lively gait on to the Carson. The excuse made for their long absence was that they were tired and went to sleep.
A STARVING OX IS CRAZY.All the fun Tolman had during that doleful stay on the Humboldt desert was from the following incident: His companion was sitting on a wagon tongue, and on the ground at his feet was a little hay. There happened to come up a stray ox that smelled the hay. This was an animal that had given out and been abandoned by some emigrant, as not able to walk. It was nearly blind from the sun glare on the sand and crazed by hunger and thirst. Smelling the hay, he went furiously after it, but not noisily. The first the little Missourian knew he was knocked over and the beast was munching the feed. This was too much for Missouri patience. The little man raved; he grasped an oxbow and pounded away on the rack of bones that was crunching the hay, but the mad creature let him pound without a note of resistance. The poor ox offers a pitiful picture of the distress that was everywhere around them.
Eckard had a rough time with his crew. They expected the impossible, did nothing, and blamed him for all they did not accomplish. He actually did his part well, but they could not invent enough humiliation to put upon him. He laid up a day at Carson, and they went on. He soon overtook them, and that made them angry. The first of the Serra Nevada ranges was very steep, and they refused to help his team up as they did each other, and were mad because Tolman did it. Eckard had taken on his wagon the stuff of every team that had given out, and had a larger load than anyone else. Tolman's partner was sick in the wagon, and objected to his helping Eckard, but Tolman bossed the job to suit himself.
THE OLD ROUTE OR THE NEW.They all wanted to take a new route via Honey Lake, and started on it, but soon met a man returning, who said it was not passable as yet. Eckard and Tolman turned back, and struck across to take the other road, and did not lose much time. The rest all followed, for they lacked independence to go anywhere alone or to act for themselves. The result proved they had done well to keep the old road. His sick partner swore he would die if they went back to the Humboldt, and had the consoling assurance that Tolman would see him properly buried. He didn't die. An old quack--Doc Mills--had one yoke with Tolman's team, and to show how unreasonable men become, we will quote him as swearing that he would go the new road if he knew it went to hell if he had a team at his command. Some of them were fearfully demoralized. The same night seventy-five wagons came back from the Honey Lake route, and their teams were nearly used up. So the growlers had no complaint to make and followed the train as before. After a row Tolman's partner--one of the Groules--would wilt down completely and emphasize his submission to a firmer will by having a good cry by the roadside. The brothers Groule had a horse between them, but were not willing to stand guard at night. They stuffed an image and stood [it] up as if a man was on guard, and then went to sleep calmly and soundly. Probably the Piutes saw them make the dummy. At any rate the morning sun shone on the dummy, but they never saw the horse again.
One man named Pilcher took the premium as a professional tongue lasher. He had "a gift" that way, and would take a man up and overhaul his mind and temperament with a choice assortment of emphatic language. He would do any man's wrangling if he took a fancy towards him. It was amusing to see some of them begin to move off when Pilcher's tongue got into motion. Instead of resenting or replying, they would cow down and slink off as if they had been caught at stealing. He liked Tolman well enough to give him no annoyance on his own account.
The wagon road on the Sierra Nevada Range was good, and they did not even have to double teams. When they got to the summit they found signboards that read in glaring capitals:
FORTY MILES TO FOUR-OUNCE DIGGINGS!And various announcements of as many enticing districts that waited for the emigrants' coming. The loose men who had no teams, or had lost their cattle, were so excited that they could hardly wait for the train to make camp. They cooked up all the food they could carry or would be likely to need in a trip of forty miles, and then started on foot for the El Dorado they had finally got in sight of. They found this journey very different from their expectation. The grub gave out the first night, and the distance proved to be eighty miles. So they journeyed on, hungry and weary, going two days without any food. The teams reached the foot of the mountains in good time and good order. They cut browse for the cattle and took their time for the journey.
So our traveler was at last in the region of so many hopes, ready for work, but the first night he was taken down with a severe attack of mountain fever, and sent for his fellow traveler, the quack doctor, Mills, who looked at him by dim candlelight, as he lay in his tent, and with a monstrous oath, swore: "You shan't die, Tolman; I'll break this fever by midnight," and so he did, giving him pills and things that effected wonderful results, and left Tolman strength to move the next day.
Doc Mills told his patient he was very ignorant as to science, but had got ideas from the Indians and had learned a great deal by his own forty years practice and experience. So he could accomplish good results when he understood his case. On the plains he was uniformly successful and had a wonderful reputation. Tolman felt much obliged to him, as he ought.
He hired a man to hitch up his team (he had bought his partner out when they reached the mountains) and drove down to Sacramento. He crossed the American River and turned the team out, having no trouble to ford the stream. Returning a few hours after, he found the river up, so he could only ford it with difficulty, and wondered if there had been a cloudburst or storm in the mountains to create the rise. It was high tide on the Sacramento. Iowa was too far inland for tides to reach, so he took his first lesson in the mystery of the tides at Sacramento.
GETTING READY FOR THE MINES.The next day he sold wagon and team to a merchant who offered to furnish a full stock for him to handle at some good point and give him half the profit if he would go in with him, but Tolman had come to California to mine for gold, and was not disposed to sell goods until he had tried his hand at mining. He had a trunk in his wagon, and some good clothes in it. He tried to get it stored, but they charged him $2 a week, and that would soon equal the value of the goods, so he took wagon bows and a cover and, driving the bows down near the river bank, stretched the canvas over the sides, leaving the ends open. Inside this shelter he placed his trunk, on top of which he laid a pair of new boots that he could not induce the trunk to hold. He went to the mines, and his trunk was unmolested under the oak tree until late in the fall, when the rise of the river threatened to swamp it. Then a neighbor named Harris, who knew him, took the trunk and boots to his house nearby, and it was waiting for him when he came back. It held a good black suit that he wore back to the States in '51, and a dozen starched white shirts that had become too tender [i.e., limp] to do much service by that time.
While studying where to go, Mr. Tolman met with a Mr. Seaman, who was an Iowa acquaintance. Seaman was looking for a partner to mine with. They soon agreed, outfitted, and then looked out for diggings. They started north, hoping to get out of the reach of the immigration that was just come in. There were plenty of fabulous stories, and they had to act with judgment. They went afoot and drove their mules loaded with materials and supplies. They heard of sickness and poor diggings farther north and turned to the Yuba. That afternoon they found where a branch of it came out of the mountains, picked and ground-worked there until near Christmas, then went in with others to build a wing dam. Tolman was the only one in good health and had to work in the water. They finished it and cleaned up $12 a day with rockers. Three months later, when they had learned to do good work, they could have earned $100 a day at the same place with the same labor. They then took up high bank claims and got their winter supplies. Above them was a Boston company of thirty men that had lost thirty [sic] by fevers. Coming from the sea, they could not endure the terribly hot summer weather.
MAKES A QUICKSILVER MACHINE.They had mechanics with them and they made a quicksilver machine that Tolman went to see in operation. They asked him $800 for one like it, but he went back, and, planning it as he went home, soon made himself one out of a big pine tree, and it worked better than the machine he saw in use. With this improvement he and his partner made better progress. Companies near them had come by water; all of them had been sick, and some had died. These offered him a share to work their ground, and he did so, clearing $100 a day each for the three of them. The next claim they worked paid them $125 a day each. The owner was dishonest and tricked them of a small sum by using quicksilver to weaken amalgam. He accidentally cheated himself of just as much as he had cheated them, so they were even, but it was not pleasant to get even with a rogue by even his own mistakes. The way of it was that every night they divided the ounces, and this man kept the odd ounces or fractions over. An account of it was kept each night, and when they finally called for a division it amounted to several hundred dollars. He figured up the total and gave it all to them, forgetting that half of it was his own. They said nothing, for the sum due them just offset what he had robbed them of. They were to retort his amalgam for him, supposing it was just as when they cleaned up. Knowing the actual value when it left the mines, they took it at that value. But he had put more quicksilver with it, enough to eat up their 10 percent for retorting, so that when retorted the sum total was just what they had agreed to give him. They had worked for nothing. Seaman was for having a row and calling him a thief, but Tolman said: "No, let's wait and see if we can't get even without a quarrel," as they eventually did.
A SURE CURE FOR THE SCURVY.In the winter the whole party on this stream had touches of the scurvy. Seaman saw blotches on his limbs and started in haste for Sacramento. He never came back. Those who remained by mere accident got rid of the plague. They were, innocently enough, trying to make vinegar in a syrup barrel that had considerable sugar in it. One day somebody tasted it, and it reminded him of good cider. It reminded all of them of good cider, and none of it ever got to be vinegar. They were surprised to find that their scurvy disappeared, and their general health improved. In time they learned that they had followed the best plan possible to cure the scurvy. So they were able to remain and prosecute their enterprise, enjoyment of health and, in time, of wealth. Heavy rains came that winter and carried off all the works and machines on the river. Tolman's company had their machine hauled up high on the bank, but it went with the rest. Water rose to the floor of their cabin, but no higher. During the high water they made machines that sold for $300 apiece. Late in January some negroes came along who had coarse gold. They promised on their return to pilot them to where it was found. Tolman's partner was a Free Soil Democrat, and took kindly to them, so they took well to him. But the darkies never came back. That winter a law was passed that no colored man should hold any mineral claim, and "that let them out." They put up a tent on a mountain that was traveled greatly, and later built a large log house there to entertain travelers, and the place was long known as "The Niggers' Tent."
A HUNT FOR COARSE GOLD PLACERS.Wishing to get into coarse gold placers, Tolman's party bought six mules for $200 apiece and early in February started up the stream. They stopped where deep snow on the Yuba made further progress impossible and sent their mules back to grass. They took up claims on Cox' Bar, then went three miles further to Downey's, and found seven men wintering and crevice mining. They hauled their supplies on hand sleds, and the place where they made them was long called Sleigh Town. About March 1 he located ten claims on the north fork of the Yuba, at a place where he saw the stream could be easily turned, and left two men to guard and hold the ground. Taking one man with him, he went back to Sleigh Town for necessary supplies.
Tolman, all through his California experiences, had to furnish the two great essentials to success in any country, money and management. He had endured much in midwinter to secure good ground. He furnished all that was needed and went himself to endure a trip through the snows to bring up provisions. He had hardly reached Sleigh Town when a fierce storm of wind and snow arose that for twelve days made it humanly impossible to travel in any direction. As he came down he met men going up, but he had secured his ground and had no fears. When travel became possible he went back with provisions. He found his two men at Cox' Bar. They had become discouraged and went down where they were near food and fellows. They must have come to California for comfort, they thought so much of it. When he reached the ground he had claimed, he found the newcomers in possession. They mined it out that season and took out over $100,000. It proved, as Tolman thought, the very best ground near there, and the dullards he left in possession had thrown it away. Tolman is not a man to cry about spilled milk, so he fell back on his
TEN CLAIMS ON COX' BAR,and went to work to get the gold that was waiting there for some worker. It was then the spring of 1850. He had made money during the time since arriving, but had struck nothing rich in the mining sense. At Cox' he went in with a company that owned ground above to build a dam. They had failed once and were willing to let him plan the work. Seventeen men were interested, and soon the work was finished in spite of high water and various delays. During that summer Tolman played a close game to interest persons who would be entirely dependent on him and would do as he said. He got them to take claims and furnished the money to work with. The summer and fall passed and he had matters well in hand. His party owned the bank and to the middle of the river on one side for 180 feet--six claims of thirty feet. Those who claimed the other side went away in winter and their claims were vacant. It was his game to stay with his men and dig a canal around the other side that would turn the river. The canal would give them all the land it drained on that side. It was blasting through hard blue basalt; the canal was five feet deep, twelve feet wide at the bottom, and eighteen feet at surface. This herculean work they finished during the winter, and when spring opened they owned that much good mining ground and could take their time to save their gold. It was no trifling undertaking. Their fortunes were in that stone's throw of riverbed and bank.
STRIKING IT VERY RICH.One man offered his share for sale at $5000. He said he would rather have Tolman's promise than take chances. Tolman took the chances and bought him out. He agreed to work the claim at $6 a day. The current wages were $7. It was the 4th of July before all were ready to go to work, and the water was turned on. A set of long sluices bore away the washed dirt. In the space of thirty-three days' time, with twelve to fifteen men at work, they took out $100,000. Here was something that realized their hopes of El Dorado, but not without a due share of labor and experience. When nearly through work Tolman sold his interest for $5000, and with over $20,000, almost a hundred pounds weight of the precious dust, he was ready to start for home and see the girl he left behind him. There had been patient waiting and working, and now he was homeward bound.
Before he was ready to leave, Tolman received a friendly warning that a set of low gamblers was organizing to make a raid on miners like himself as they should go out of the mines with their treasure. He had waited for a "goodly company" to be a safeguard, and when finally he took the road towards Sacramento he formed one of a party of ten or twelve resolute men who carried out over $100,000. They were well armed and had no timidity. They had a great mountain spur to cross, and when halfway up the trail the seven gamblers overtook them. The miners were on the qui vive, and gave no chance to attack. All reached the "Nigger Tent," which was at this time a great log house for travelers, kept by the negroes we have already met.
The robbers tried to put up some game to catch the miners. They called for cards and drank and pretended to gamble and then to fight. It was a large room, but the whole crowd occupied it all night. The miners piled up their luggage and treasure in one corner, and one-half stood watch at all times. The greater the row among the others, the more anxious our men were. The night passed, and after breakfast the whole crowd went down the mountain. The gamblers had heard Tolman say very certainly that his party would take the road to Marysville, and that had been so often said that they went ahead and turned off on that road when the forks were reached. Tolman and his friends saw the tracks they made and took the road to Nevada City, and that was the last they saw of the hangdog crowd. They remained a few weeks in California, then took the steamer for Panama, September 15. As the express company wished to charge him $1500 for carrying his treasure to New York, a party was made up for mutual protection.
SAFELY DOWN THE CHAGRES RIVER.They need only fear the pirates on the Chagres River. This river they went down to the ocean over fifty miles, and the boatmen [were] sometimes very wicked. They were warned, and when they hired a great whaleboat or yawlboat, they put their baggage in the center and piled their bags of gold dust with the rest. The crew consisted of a Spanish ruffian for captain and four negroes. They let this crew see that they were well armed and not afraid. The treasure was fully $100,000 in value, and the captain's eyes fairly glared over it. The game is to upset the boat, gold and all, and then to secure the gold at leisure. The travelers purchased and inflated life preservers, and tied one to each gold sack. As the sacks could not sink, there would be less interest in upsetting the boat. It was close work watching that Spaniard, but it was necessary. At one time he was caught trying to run the boat broadside onto a river snag, a big "sawyer," but several revolvers and knives were drawn, and he was informed that any attempt of the kind would be his death warrant. This ended his hopes, and at the next landing the "bold buccaneer" went ashore and left the crew to manage without his help. No doubt he proposed to capture or share the gold dust, but he did not. They reached New York in safety and saved the greater part of the 7 percent the express companies would have charged on the total $100,000 of treasure that one party carried.
Our next will bring the old pioneer to Oregon and to his own well-beloved Southern Oregon, that is certainly one of the most charming and agreeable spots on the fair earth.
Sunday Oregonian, Portland, March 7, 1886, page 7
The March 14, 1886 installment of the Tolman interview was removed
from the edition of the Oregonian that was microfilmed.
Does anyone out there have a clipping of it in an old scrapbook?
Judge Tolman, in 1852, Again Crosses the Plains, this Time to Oregon.
Some Stirring Adventures with the Indians--Atrocities Committed by the Modocs--
Incidents Tragic and Amusing.
We have narrated that Mr. Tolman went to California in 1849, underwent various vicissitudes on the plains and in the mines and returned in the autumn of 1851 with his fortune of $20,000 gold dust.
In the spring of 1852 Mr. Tolman married at Oskaloosa, Iowa, and started the next day to make the long and tedious journey across the plains. That was his bridal trip. Ten wagons outfitted there, and they all kept together until they reached Yreka. The journey was not eventful; there was no trouble during its early stages, Tolman being the leader all the way.
He had four wagons of his own and as many men and some good stock, so that his own outfit was strong enough to go whenever they pleased. The first night out he saw the others having a consultation, and when he asked the cause was told that they proposed to elect him captain. When he crossed in '49 he had plenty of experience of the troubles of a captain on the plains, and wanted no such position. His reply was that he would not consent to assume such responsibility, that he had a train of his own and was not afraid to go along as he was, and if the others wished to accompany him, and do as his men did, he would in that way be their leader. They did so, and usually followed his advice and considered that he was in command.
On the Sweetwater they met a company of fifteen returning from California. The leader was Rollins, who had mined in Southern Oregon. One of the party was his daughter, Josephine, who happened to be the only woman in the mines when the county was organized, and it was named Josephine, in honor of the fact. This party were all on horseback and had pack animals to carry their supplies and baggage. Rollins told them they could go to Yreka by the old Oregon route much better than to go to the Columbia and then go south from there. Tolman had an idea that he carried out exactly, to locate on farming land as near as he could to the mines. He expected to find such land near Yreka. When he reached the north bend of Humboldt, where he road would turn off, he found there an agent of the Honey Lake route, who said death awaited them on the route they proposed to take. Tolman remembered the disaster in '49 on the Honey Lake route and kept on as Rollins had instructed.
The first trouble they had from Indians was near the north end of High Rock Canyon, which was a wonderful spot of earth. They seemed to approach a perpendicular mountain wall that was hundreds of feet high, and saw no opening until close up to it, when a cleft in the rock was apparent. This was the commencement of a canyon ten miles long, that was two to ten rods wide, but became flatter as the west end was reached. This remarkable canyon is [on] what is known as the "Lassen route." Lassen was a California mountaineer who was murdered by the Shoshones as he lay sleeping in his blankets. The murder was committed near the east end of this canyon. Tolman's company drove through the canyon and two miles beyond, and camped there. They tied their horses' heads to their feet and turned them out to graze. They had in all sixty head of stock. The men who were on guard said the animals had quit feeding, and stood quiet, when all of a sudden they stampeded and rushed off as fast as they could thus hobbled. A night stampede of stock is one of the most terrible things imaginable. They--or some one of them, it may be--become alarmed; the alarm is contagious, and all go wildly frantic. Indians stampede stock very adroitly. They creep in among them, make no noise, but suddenly show themselves and whirl a blanket, and the thing is done. Just the smell of Indians, when animals get scent of them, will do as much as the greatest efforts can do. No doubt it was Shoshones that caused the stampede on this occasion. Fortunately the stock all rushed into their camp, and being hobbled could not get away so fast but the owners got every one again. So Mr. Shoshone had his labor for his pains.
NOT SATISFIED BY HALF.They had no further trouble until they crossed the northeastern extension of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and came down into what is now known as the Fandango Valley. Here they saw where some government expedition had left its wagons, which were rotting where they left them. They made a cache and hid away the goods that had been left in the wagons. In the summer or fall of 1849 emigrants found one of these caches and discovered a barrel of extra choice whiskey and many tools. The expedition must have been in straits to have abandoned a barrel of choice liquor in this way.
At Humboldt some men with three ox teams had joined their company. Not having experienced any trouble, these people were unwilling to stand guard, and concluded to take the chances, so they let their oxen run off by themselves and not with the balance of the stock. One morning some of the company called to the cattlemen to look. Sure enough, they looked and saw two Indians prodding away at two of their oxen. They took only one ox apiece, to make sure work of it, and hurried them over the hills faster and farther than it was safe to follow. Warren, the leader of the ox train, was rushing after them, right towards where they could see fires burning as if there was a large Indian camp there. Tolman called to him to come back or he never would be able to get back. So he returned. They had in all a fair-sized train, but were not in condition to be independent. There were too many women and children, and of all their men only four or five could be depended on to stand up to an Indian fight. Besides this they were not well armed. This being the case, they could only keep good watch and dare not pursue stolen stock. These fellows got tired of trusting to luck in an Indian country, and were very glad, after that, to stand guard and be amenable to the regulations of the camp and have their share of the protection this course ensured.
After they had come around the south end of Goose Lake they met a company of fifty California volunteers, under Capt. McDermitt. This company was raised at Yreka and was out on the road to assist and protect emigrants. A man named Nutter had gone into Yreka and reported many emigrants on the way and that they were liable to meet with much trouble from the Indians. McDermitt had raised this company and had met already one train near Tule Lake, and had sent back to two of his men to guide and assist them. Tolman afterwards learned that this train had had a fight with Modocs and the two Californians were wounded. One of the emigrants had a very heavy rifle and was a great shot. At a distance of nearly 500 yards he had taken good sight and had literally blown the head off of a young chief. The Modocs lost a little time howling over their loss, so the emigrants improved it to drive on as fast as they could, putting their wounded men in the wagons. These fainted from loss of blood, but were finally attended to and their wounds bound up. They both recovered. McDermitt sent back two of his men with Tolman's company and gave them all the advice and information he could. After leaving Goose Lake whenever they could catch a good view in advance they saw an Indian on horseback playing spy on their movements. It seemed to be always the same man on the same horse.
The third camp after Goose Lake was made at what was then called Pelican Lake, changed since to Clear Lake. On the 17th of August it was that they camped there. Six miles beyond they came to plenty of Indian signs. On the morning of the 18th they moved on to the divide in full sight of Tule Lake, and when near the lake they took a bench and followed it parallel with the lake shore. At this point Tolman had the train stop, and after putting the women and children inside, he had all the canvas tied down tight, not to let the Indians know that they were encumbered with noncombatants in the person of women and children.
A SCARED DUTCHMAN.Happening to look back just then, Tolman saw the men of the train winking and blinking at each other in a very funny and wise way, as much as to say that Tolman was frightened, but they were not. He was provoked enough at their impudence to wish they might get into a scrimmage, to let them see who was best prepared for it. He made up his mind to keep on the bench till they got to the head of Tule Lake, and the result proved his wisdom in so doing.
One of the Germans they knew as Chris, and another old fellow they called "Skillet Head." Chris was very partial to ducks, so when they came near the lake he took his fowling piece and was sneaking towards the lake shore to get a shot at some birds he saw floating on the surface, when Tolman ordered him back and told him he would lose his scalp if he went there. One of the wagons belonged to three Dutchmen, and this Chris had a penchant for hunting waterfowl. He looked on Tolman as afraid without a cause, and as soon as they were under way up to this middle bench, he tried again for a chance at the ducks. Tolman saw him sneaking through the tall sage but determined to let him earn his own experience, as he shortly did. The siwashes had ambushed the road along the beach that was usually traveled and were hidden among the rocks that made the permanent shoreline. When they discovered that the wagon train was making a new road they suddenly rose from their hiding places and giving a fiendish war whoop they started for the wagons on a keen run. It is commonly supposed that a savage will outrun a Dutchman, but it was proved to the contrary that day.
The new move wasn't exactly "ducks" to Chris, but it was to Tolman and perhaps to others who saw that Teutonic member of their fraternity start back for the wagons considerably better than at a 2:40 gait [the trotting gait of a horse]. The first jump saw his hat go overboard, but Chris was too busy to think of a hat. He reached his wagon thoroughly scared, and having gained on his competitors so that they were "distanced." His hat was a total loss and his breeches were shreds and tatters. The sage and greasewood offered rough points of controversy that nearly stripped him of his clothes as they caught hold of his garments on his rapid career to his wagon. There wasn't much sneering or duck hunting after that, for they realized that Tolman had been among Indians before then, and was wise and prudent in his management.
Matters were a trifle critical, for the white men numbered only about twenty-five all told, and the Indians were numerous, with more, no doubt, where these came from. To mend matters, Skillet Head, Chris' partner, fainted in his wagon, but the other one of the three kept their mules at a trot and the whole train was making the best time possible. Tolman saw the necessity of getting to the head of the lake before the Modocs could reach the rocks and cut off their progress, so he kept the teams on a fast trot and rushed and rushed ahead with all possible speed.
THE MODOCS OUTWITTED.Sending all the rest to the rear save the drivers and Frame, who was left with him by McDermitt, they too went in advance and the teams rushed after. Frame told Tolman that just where they would need to come down off the second bench to the lake level there was a Modoc rancherie. Realizing the need of audacity, the two of them rushed down the bluff that lay above the village with all the yell there was in them, which took the Modocs by surprise. The men all jumped into the lake and swam on and the field was left open for their train. The wagons followed, and when they got up the beach, alongside the mules, every moment counted. The Modocs followed the rocky bluff, but at the head of Tule Lake this bluff recedes gradually from the shore, and following along the lake, close to the tules, they diverged more and more from the rocky ridge which the Modocs were now in possession of. One of them got on the ridge and motioned, as if in friendliness, to show them that their road lay close to the rocks, but they were already passing out of arrowshot and the Modocs had few guns. As they got on the lake level Tolman had the foremost teams slack speed to let those behind come up abreast, so as to be two deep. The armed men kept between the teams and the rocky bluff and soon they were safe, on the open prairie, out of reach of bows and arrows. The water being low at that season of the year favored them, as it left a broader stretch of level land between the lake and the Indian ambush among the rocks.
One of the company was a man named Mosier, who joined them at Humboldt and agreed to act as hunter for the train while in their employ. He was a fine shot and had a rifle able to do good work. Just as the battle seemed imminent Mosier came up to a wagon that stopped for a moment and leaning his gun against the wheel, said, "By gosh, if I've got to fight I must eat," at the same time reaching for a biscuit. Just then the wagon started, the gun fell under the wheel and broke off at the stock. Here was their best artillery disabled. Tolman ran back to the ox team, where a young man had a good rifle, and put the weapon into the hunter's hand, so Mosier was himself again. In all their company not one in five was worth anything in an Indian fight. Very few of them had good guns or pistols. Of course, the Indians didn't know this, but Tolman did, and the knowledge made him willing to avoid any danger when it was possible. Two of them had to keep together, as there was only one ramrod for both. There were many discouragements, but the Modocs didn't know of them, nor did they know the wagons contained only women and children instead of armed men, as old Schonchin very seriously intimated in the talk they soon had with him. When they had reached open ground of sufficient width they corralled the train without having fired a shot. The Indians came up within seventy-five yards of them on the upper bench; they had made a detour to go on in advance and head the train off, but it held on its way so as to pass their place of ambush before many of them reached it. They made the riffle "in the nick of time."
A TALK WITH SCHONCHIN.Frame could talk Chinook jargon, and as Schonchin, the Modoc chief, wanted a talk, they went back to meet him towards the bluff. Schonchin and Frame were within seventy-five yards of each other, and seven of the company were within fifty yards of Frame. One of them saw an Indian stoop down and tie something to his foot, and called to Frame to warn him. Frame told Schonchin to make that man take off what he was dragging, or he would shoot him (Schonchin) dead where he stood. Schonchin did so, and the fellow untied his bow that he was trying to drag unperceived near enough to use it, and throw it at a distance. The arrows hung straight down his back and could not be seen when he came face toward them. So one little treachery was foiled. Schonchin asked where they were going. They said to Yreka. He agreed to go back and let the train go on unmolested, if they would agree to it. This verbal treaty was made, and the train pushed on fifteen miles further that afternoon, willing, in spite of the treaty of peace, to get out of the Modoc territory as soon as possible.
That afternoon there came up a terrible hailstorm that turned to a cold rain which lasted all night long. They tied all the animals to wagon wheels and cut feed for them in the semi-darkness. They made no fires, and those not on guard crept into wagons or under the few tents and worried through the night as they best could. At early dawn the storm was not so bad, so they hitched up and drove away as soon as they could see. When not a hundred yards away from the camping place they looked back and saw the spot covered with Modocs. They made no attack, and that was the last they saw of them. The Modocs had camped among the tules along the river through the night, and were in no condition to renew the fight. The cold rain had not only chilled them but had wet their bows and taken the strength out of the sinews that were glued on to give them force. They could not make an arrow fly and so were not able to massacre the train, as they no doubt intended. The hail and rain befriended them. A few days after, when Ben. Wright came out there with his Yreka volunteers, they buried many that these Indian fiends had killed. They found a whole company corralled and surrounded by Modocs. They had fought until nearly exhausted and must soon have given in. These had an idea Wright's company was an Indian reinforcement on horseback, but the Modocs saw who they were and left before the volunteers came up. An Indian's eyesight is wonderful. Ben's company overhauled some and killed a number before they could escape in their canoes, for this fight was on Tule Lake, and the Indians had crossed the lake and had hidden in natural caves in the lava beds where the whites could not get at them, though they tried to smoke them out and so conquer them. The writer visited these caves in Modoc War times and found they were long caverns resembling an underground railroad tunnel. In places the roof had fallen in and the bighorned mountain sheep resorted there in great numbers. The caves were very narrow and half a mile long.
They had camped on Lost River, near the natural bridge, so called because at this place a reef of rocks crosses the stream and the water never stands over four feet deep on it. Here they cut feed for their stock, and were so unlucky as to feed them "crazy cane," that grows in the bottoms and is poisonous or at least unwholesome. It has the effect at first to make an animal crazy, and then leaves it stupid. It takes several days to wear off this effect, and some suffered from it for a long while. All that day they went slow; they could not get the mules off a walk. Frame explained the nature of "crazy cane" to them, and showed that they must have fed it to their stock without perceiving it was not grass.
If the Indians had made a night attack in force on Tolman's company on the open ground and with the stock to care for and women and children to guard, it would have been very dangerous, even with the best of Indian fighters, as the odds were fully ten to one. Tolman saw two hundred as they passed, and all were after him. It is undoubtedly true that the Modocs were the worst, most treacherous and savage and bloody-minded of all the tribes, and fully earned the terrible vengeance Ben. Wright and his men finally inflicted by practicing some of their own treachery upon them.
A TRAGIC STORY.They camped at Klamath Springs the next night, and on the mountain east of Shasta Butte the night after, then at Sheep Rock, in Shasta Valley, where they were visited by a strange character after they had supper well over. At this time a man rode up on horseback, only dressed with shirt and pants. The horse had a rope around his neck, but had neither saddle nor bridle. He was fairly glued to the horse, as his flesh was worn and raw; he was blistered and sore. He was lifted off the horse, and when he recovered his senses so as to be able to talk he told a very strange story of his escape from massacre. They were eight in all, packers with their animals. They came along soon after this train had passed, and, seeing new tracks, followed them up the benchland east of Tule Lake. The Indians, having been deceived by Tolman's strategy, seeing this company of packers coming, either placed their ambush on the trail Tolman made, or placed one on the lake shore and the bench trail too. All he knew was that they were fired on, and his companions all fell at the first shot. He was riding a worn-out horse, and on the instant sprang off and seized the horse he then rode. He got on his back and it ran away with him. He fortunately managed to follow the trail, and his wild nag soon distanced pursuit. He was too frightened to show any discretion, and let the horse run his best for fifteen miles, when he fell down utterly broken. When the horse gave out he left him lying there and struck north, crossed Lost River, then went west towards Klamath Lake, where he saw Indians, turned back frightened to death, and went until he saw his horse again, up and feeding. He mounted him once more and had ridden horseback over a route they were three days driving hard as they could. He must have ridden eighty miles without getting off.
The next day, August 21, they got to Yreka, where the man's story called out a great deal of interest. Citizens had a meeting, volunteers were called for and funds raised to send out another expedition to protect the emigrants. They went for Ben. Wright, who was mining on Cottonwood. He came at daylight; the company was organized, the horses shod, supplies and ammunition were put in shape, and on the 26th they started. That was the first news that reached Yreka, and resulted in calling out Ben. Wright's expedition against the Modocs that is so famous. He taught them a lesson they did not soon forget, but it did not reform them.
Twenty years afterward the writer was at Yainax, on Sprague River, and interviewed Chief Schonchin, the same who figures in the foregoing narrative. There were two brothers of them, and this one was the oldest and the head chief of the tribe. The other brother was with Capt. Jack, and was hung at Fort Klamath the summer of 1873. Old Schonchin and the majority of the tribe had remained quiet at Yainax through the whole Modoc war. The old chief told me, through Oliver Applegate as interpreter, that he was in the fight with Ben. Wright, and made up his mind that Modocs could not hold their own in battle with white men, and determined, as peace was the only means of self-preservation, to forever keep at peace with the whites, who were their superiors, and as numerous as the trees in the forest; that he had never taken the war path against white men from that day.
RESULTS OF INDIAN ATROCITY.Two weeks after Ben. Wright took the field, Col. John E. Ross, of Jacksonville, raised a second full company, and went out on the plains to bury the dead and protect the living. Col. Ross said, after his return, that they found many bodies of immigrants that had been massacred. The infernal brutes had made no exception, and all of one family lay together--father, mother and children. During the melee of murder some would get away, and hiding in the big sage would try to creep from the scene of slaughter, but they were pursued, and some bodies were found five miles from the immigrant road, dead, gory and despoiled, where the fiends had finally come upon them. The two companies took turns in searching for and burying the dead and in conveying and protecting emigrant trains through the hostile territory, as the Modocs kept on their own soil, which was near and south of Lost River. It is hardly possible to understand the pitch and intensity of feeling that grew up in the hearts of the volunteers, whose duty all that autumn was to bury the murdered dead. The terrible atrocity of the Modoc nature was not human, then or many years after. Wright attempted to decoy the enemy by one ruse or another, but they were too wily and too wary. He first put his men inside and tried to pass for an emigrant train, but Schonchin was up to tricks himself, and not to be caught by small ones. Then he tried to get a talk and manufacture a peace, but all efforts failed, until at last he brought to bear the services of Swill and his squaw, Indians that had been a long time with him and came originally from The Dalles. Swill talked Chinook jargon and so did some of the Modocs. They got up a talk and actually worked up a peace that would perhaps have lasted as long as Ben. Wright was in sight. But this did not secure the confidence of Wright and his men. They had seen too many dead faces of their own race looking from sightless eyeballs to a silent heaven, to be duped by Modoc professions of peace. There was vengeance in their hearts, and they talked peace without any more heart in it than the Modocs themselves could have felt.
Wright, by aid of Swill and his squaw, made terms with the chief, for Schonchin was not there. The chief in command, with forty of his warriors, agreed to consummate the treaty by the Indian method. They killed a fat ox and invited the Modocs to the feast. The place where all this was done was at the Natural Bridge on Lost River--the traditional place of honor where the tribe celebrated all its great anniversaries or other occasions. The Natural Bridge is a shallow spot in the river's bed, made by a reef of rock the waters could not cut away. This made it possible to ford there at all stages, and on that sacred spot of earth Ben. Wright made a barbecue to feast the Modocs.
VENGEANCE EXECUTED."To smile and be a villain" is not difficult when you have villains to deal with. They spread this barbaric feast on the sagebrush plain out in the wilderness of Modoc land. The viands were chiefly ox meat, cooked in various ways, and the stores of the expedition were called on for means to create variety. We can surmise much and leave to surmise the details further than to know that the forty Modocs sat in a long line opposite to their late antagonists. They were as merry as possible, but it was "the pursuit of pleasure among difficulties." Swill, as interpreter, aided Wright to understand the Modoc chief, who was his vis à vis. The feast was at its height, and every Modoc stomach ached with satiety when Wright gave a signal that was agreed on. He quickly drew his revolver and swiftly shot his opposite, the Modoc chief, who ruled the day, through the heart. Every man followed his example, and the forty braves went suddenly to the happy hunting ground of the Modoc--supposing such to exist. It was terrible; under many circumstances it would have been inexcusable; under civilized laws it could not have been possible, and when the volunteers went home they made up a tale that Modoc treachery called for swift vengeance. They were afraid that common humanity could not forgive them the deep damnation of the taking off of forty Modocs who were eating their bread and using their salt.
All through the pretense of feasting and friendship those white rangers saw the patient-faced that they had buried, of every age, sex and condition; they remembered the mutilation, the savage pursuit for weary miles of those escaping, murdered families and massacred trains, and these pictures of memory so new and vivid nerved the arm and steeled their hearts to slay in treachery those hellhounds they held at last in their toils, whose treachery had never failed, and whose falsehoods meant murder and thirst for blood. Perhaps religious philosophy may convict and condemn them by the tenets of a religion no Modoc's nature could have understood, if it had been taught. They had used treachery, and at last had fallen in snares just like their own.
It is possible some will deny this transaction occurred as I narrate it, but one of them was a settler, who now lives on Rogue River, and the story I tell here is exactly as he told it to Tolman soon after its occurrence. Whatever refined humanity may say of this transaction its effect was good, as it terrified the savages and destroyed in an instant one-fifth of the fighting men of the tribe. Elsewhere I tell of Schonchin's interview with me in 1873, where he says the Ben. Wright episode taught him that whites are greatly superior to Indians. A large part of the tribe never committed any more outrages. No doubt this lesson saved the lives of many emigrants. Judged by its effects we can accept it as a fortunate lesson, though certainly not a very humane one.
Tolman looked at Scott Valley for a home, but the gamblers and speculators, seeing a number of families arrived and knowing they would seek homes, went and put up notices claiming every available spot. This angered Tolman. He heard a man describing the beauties of Rogue River Valley and determined to go there. So he and several other families that came from Ottumwa moved over the Siskiyou and found what they wanted. Tolman bought the claim of a dying man to a good piece of land near Jacksonville and made his home there.
After a number of changes he made his permanent location and took up his home in that beautiful region. He will in the next number give us a brief sketch of the early history of Rogue River Valley.
INCIDENTS ON THE PLAINS.One of the company was a son of a rich man. His father outfitted him for California in 1849, at a cost of $3000. When he reached Hangtown, Cal., he couldn't buy a breakfast. He came back to Iowa with nothing, and in 1852 was returning with a riding and pack mule, as his father would not invest in him any longer. He was a disorganizer and tried to be a leader, but the women in the train would not put confidence in him. At Thousand Springs Valley they met men and wagons from Salt Lake, who had there changed their teams for fresh stock and were hauling wheat and flour to feed them. Their stock soon began to die, while Tolman's train all did well on natural grass and that only. He always drove them to some upland where bunchgrass was, and never let them feed on alkali bottoms, and thereby saved them. Of sixty animals, they lost none. He also took pains to have them watered at the purest springs on the day's route, and by watching to secure the best feeding and watering places, they never lost an animal under his care. Two of the Iowa wagons, and the young man with two mules, concluded to push ahead with the newcomers. They got into an abandoned road that led through a rocky canyon and were nearly worn out. When they reached the old road again they waited for Tolman's train to come up and were glad to make regular time with his company. Feeding their horses flour and driving them hard heated them, and many of them died in consequence, whereas teams taken to the best grass, sometimes two miles away from camp, did well. The alkali grass and water was unhealthy.
Tolman says the atmosphere of the inland region is unhealthy to immigrants. They want to sleep and wish to lay over and rest. Many drivers would sleep as they drove. It needed some strong will to be constantly pushing them on towards Oregon. Many will fret, and such persons get ill and are sick or die, while good-natured people will get along well. One man had a good horse to ride and was so satisfied the beast would die for lack of food that he sold it for what he could get.
LIKE NIOBE, ALL TEARS.On the Humboldt they came up to a Mrs. Tenbrook, who sat by the way crying because they had a smashed wheel. They had no way to get through .Tolman changed his wife's carriage for a light wagon two young men had. Mrs. Tolman rode a mule for 700 miles and the Tenbrooks took the light wagon and drove on in less than half an hour. It was a trial for Mrs. Tolman, who conferred a great favor.
Opposite the Black Hills a big, black-bearded rawboned border ruffian and his woman joined them in haste. He said he wanted two mules, as his partner had gone off with one span and left him a big government wagon that his other pair of Spanish mules couldn't haul. Tolman had a pair only broken to ride, but Jack Jones took them, saying a mule would work as well the first time as ever. In two hours Jones came up on the keen run, the raw mules in the lead. He stammered in his talk and looked a desperado; very few liked him or could get along with him, but he was always a good friend to Tolman.
On Raft River they fell in with a rough set of men from Michigan, who tried to be annoying from the start. They would start first and keep the others back. Tolman's train all had fast mules that could travel well, and these fellows had poor stock. They would make camp nearby. At the City of Rocks, on Rock Creek, Tolman went ahead to look out if this road they made in '49 was in order. While he waited for the train to come up he saw his wife driving her carriage team with all her might and wagons scattered behind her.
A REGULAR SCRIMMAGE.Her story was that the Michigan people drove into the creek with one wagon and stood there, [and] seeing one of Tolman's wagons drive by in the creek the Irish driver turned his horses and wagon across the ford to stop the way, two men behind him swinging canes to keep the others back. There was some exchange of words and Poinsett, who drove for Tolman, swung a bucket in the Irishman's face, knocking him down and letting some teeth out. Poinsett took a spoke from the wagon and was making it lively for three of the Michiganders, when a big young fellow of their set called out: "Let me at him, I can whip my weight in wildcats." After him came this man Jones, who rushed through the creek, picking up a rock as he went with both hands. This he pitched at the fellow who was making for Poinsett, and it took him in the back of the head, letting out his wildcat courage and ending the war.
The Michigan folks gathered up their wounded and retired. They were a cowardly lot and concluded to speculate on the affair. One of them came up to see Tolman and wanted to have Jones go and see the wounded man. He did so that evening, Tolman and two others standing guard unseen, but there was no danger. The Michigan men wanted coin. The young man of wildcat courage showed his wounds and appealed to Jones' sympathy. Jones borrowed $10 of Tolman, and that sealed the treaty of peace. A few days later that company went to pieces, broke up in a row, and Tolman saw them no more. Jones' habit of stuttering threw some ludicrous features into the case. He puffed and stammered, but acted rather a heroic part when the crisis came.
The denouement of the Jones family found a tragedy for its basis, and occurred not long before reaching Yreka. When they were leaving the Humboldt, Jones was a driver, and part of his team belonged to Tolman. At that place he became afraid that the other teamsters had done something to prejudice Tolman against him. On this hint he spoke and made a clean breast of it. Said he: "My name is not Jones and never was. I am Jack Edgar, of Memphis, and I don't go a d--n on the Jones family, anyhow. I killed a drunken man in self-defense in Memphis, and a woman swore my life away. I went to Texas, and they sold everything I had and I never got a dime of it all--a livery stable of 200 horses and buggies to match. I owned a lot of niggers, and they sold off the whole business, and I never got a dollar. There is a man at Marysville who is rich now, but I once paid a $10,000 security debt for him, and I'll get all I need when I find him."
So much of this was true that in three hours after reaching Yreka, Jack Edgar, as he was afterwards called, was dressed as fine as a fiddle. He went to Marysville and came back to Yreka to buy a lot of horses to stock a livery stable at the other place. It was said that $700 reward was offered for Edgar, but it was not enough to pay the cost of such a trip and he was let alone. He met Texan friends at Yreka and they outfitted him to go to Marysville. The last Tolman knew of Edgar he owned a large ranch near Chico, and died there some years ago.
Sunday Oregonian, Portland, March 21, 1886, pages 3 and 8
Indian Wars in Southern Oregon from 1853 to 1855, Inclusive.
True Stories of Reckless Whites and Ferocious Savages--Warfare Behind Rocks and Trees.
(Written for the Sunday Oregonian.)
The history of Southern Oregon was a record of bloody wars in early days, and the several historians who have attempted to chronicle them have not been always fortunate in securing information of the most reliable character as to their causes and commencement. Early days saw among the white settlers of Rogue River numbers of reckless men, who had been attracted thither by the glitter of gold and the sheen of its rich placers. Such irresponsible characters as resort to a rich mining region form a very different population from that which sought the Willamette Valley. If that sort of settlers had peopled the beautiful Rogue River country, the terrible wars and massacres that occurred would have been greatly modified, if they had found any pretext to exist at all. The Rogue Rivers were a savage and untamable people, but it is true that several of their great chiefs were reluctant to take the warpath, and peace could have been preserved had men of cool judgment been prominent in connection with affairs, and if the acts of the reckless class could have been restrained.
SOME UNTOLD TRUTHS OF HISTORY.The following narrative will be reliable as to fact, and will give the world for the first time the true story of those times. It will be seen that the natives were sinned against as well as sinning, and in some instances were the victims of unwarranted outrage and aggression. Mr. Tolman was a settler in 1852. When he had been in the valley about two weeks, and had made his settlement at the north end of Oak Grove, three miles east of Jacksonville, emigrants began to arrive over the Applegate route to Southern Oregon. They made haste to take up land claims and prepare for winter. Four men who crossed with him, who had no families, were anxious to take up mining ground, so he went with them to give the benefit of his experience gained in California from '49 to '51. He selected a high bar on Applegate Creek, five or six miles above the forks of that stream, where they worked through the winter with moderate success. At the forks of Applegate Creek--where Uniontown now is--Elijah, the Indian chief, lived with his band. As Tolman had agreed to furnish these miners with supplies, he had to pass through this Indian camp on each trip to the mines, which was every ten to twelve days through the winter. In February and March a terrible sickness fell on these Indians, and a lamentable howling was kept up by their doctors for several weeks. As time passed, they became cross and impatient, and it was not thought safe to go near them. The cause of this sickness was not divulged until the close of the war of 1853, when it was known that this band of Indians had been in the habit of stealing provisions from the cabin of a man named Davis, who lived southeast of Jacksonville. To avenge himself Davis put poison in a sack containing twelve to fifteen pounds of flour and left it exposed in his cabin. They took and ate the flour, and the mysterious illness was the result.
ONE INDIAN'S VENGEANCE.Making up his mind that war was an inevitable result of existing circumstances, and judging by the conduct of these Indians, Tolman took his good brood mares and mules to California and sold them all there at a fair price, saving only one for the young man with him to ride, and buying a saddle mule for his own use. He had enclosed ten acres of land and planted it in potatoes, corn and oats, leaving a portion for hay that was set thickly in wild clover. About the first of July he went to Coos Bay with an expedition, and was gone about a month. Soon after returning, about August 4, 1853, he was summoned on a coroner's jury over a man named Edwards, who was found murdered at his own cabin door, on Bear Creek, about seven miles east of Jacksonville. They found Edwards shot dead, and his face chopped with an [a line of type obscured by a fold] concluded it was the work of Indians, but saw only signs that one was engaged in the deed.
The coroner's jury returned with a conviction that the horrors of Indian warfare were in the near future. When he reached home Mr. Tolman was informed that Bill Davis, a neighbor, had borrowed his fine riding mule to pursue some Indians, who had robbed his cabin. An hour later Mr. Tenbrook, a neighbor, came in, much excited, and said that Davis and B. Griffin had followed the Indians up Griffin Creek and the Indians "had cleaned them out," wounding the two men and killing Tolman's fine mule. This induced him to prepare for an emergency, and as he was scarce of ammunition he rode to Jacksonville to procure a supply. The news caused excitement there, and a meeting was called for that evening to discuss the situation. Tolman went home to mold bullets, but he learned that towards evening a shot was fired close to town, on the Yreka trail, and cries for help heard. There was a rush to the rescue, and they found that a Jacksonville merchant named Wills had been shot from his horse by an Indian sheltered behind a tree. The meeting was held "with blood in every eye." So much had occurred that very day that the public mind was wrought up to a fierce excitement. A resolution was adopted, among other matters, to exterminate the Indians--every man was to kill his Indian wherever he could be found. In the excitement of the hour no man recollected the strength of the Indians and how poorly the whites were prepared to enter on an Indian war.
EXTERMINATING THE INDIANS.Scouting for Indians began the next day, but people had gradually taken a second, sober thought over the proposition to exterminate the Indian race. One unsophisticated man was an exception, for he seemed not to have cooled off. This Brown understood the resolution to be unanimously carried, and accepted it as law. He supposed men in convention meant what they said, and coming across a lame Indian, who was living with a farmer down the valley, he "drew a bead" on him and fired. The Indian dropped and with possum-like forbearance lay quiet while his victor tore his scalp off--it might be termed Spartan-like by some writers--for the possum lies still and plays death under the greatest difficulties. When the victor was gone the Indian also rose and found his way to his friends. It may be well enough to say here that he recovered to be a wiser if not a better man.
It was soon found that the thing most necessary to be done was to provide for the defense of women and children, to shelter the families during the war that was inevitable. Tolman went to work to provide a safe place of refuge for his own family and some of his neighbors. For this purpose he put up a blockhouse, sixteen feet square on the ground, with loopholes for the riflemen. The families were safely housed in the upper part, which was a projection all round and was nearly twenty feet square. He had a rack of perhaps fifty tons of hay; to guard this he put up a small house not over fifty yards from the blockhouse. So all his premises were well guarded. There were four men there besides himself. Two were miners who were waiting safe travel to get out of the country. The others were Tenbrook and Coffin, whose families were housed above. Mrs. Abel George and children were also there, while her husband was with the volunteers. One night before the blockhouse was up he saw at one time five homes burning down the valley and thought the Indians were making a raid its whole length. Four men watched from the roof of a cabin. One of them slipped off and came where they were sleeping and said in a stage whisper: "Get ready; the grove is full of Indians," meaning a grove of trees nearby. He hurried back to the shed, and all hands in the cabin went to work to prepare for war. The families were stowed aloft. They fixed a place in the corner, covered by a blanket, for Coffin to load (no cartridges in those days) while Tolman should fire, as they only had two guns. The cabin they were in only had one small window. Petrie got sick and lay down on a rude lounge there was. Then followed an hour of deadly silence, but no Indians came to time.
Ball's companions finally learned the fact of his false alarm and explained that he could only have heard cattle in the grove, and the sticks breaking under their tread caused him his fright. Afterwards they put out fires in the grove as a precaution. These incidents show how matters are managed in Indian wars.
JACKSONVILLE IN 1853.Jacksonville was then a village of 1000 inhabitants who lived in board houses of flimsy build. The only safe place in town was a cellar. Sometimes those on guard would get up a false alarm and shoot at stumps or a black hog in a dark night. Women and children would then be jammed into the cellar in a hurry. At first hostiles were scattering, and many natives preferred peace who were afterwards forced into the war by circumstances. There was a class of irresponsible Indians, as of reckless and irresponsible whites, while the majority of each race would have preferred peace by all means. Reckless whites, who had nothing to lose, either as to property or family, could perpetrate some act of cowardly butchery, and leave families of settlers to suffer massacre for their crimes. Then again, as in the case of Gibbs (to be told), an Indian would rob and murder his best friend at times. If the best white men and Indians could have managed matters there would have been no war on Rogue River at any time.
When the blockhouse was up Tolman felt safe. He went to Jacksonville, where people remonstrated with him for his recklessness, but he could not appreciate their interest in his behalf. One gentleman (since then resident of Salem) was indignant because he refused to be taken in--to Jacksonville. He said: "Bring your family here or we won't protect you." He thought they would need his assistance as soon as he theirs. There was a fact that explains Tolman's security at a time when others were burned out and robbed. He had never permitted the Indians about his place. Whilst he was kind he was never familiar; all through the troubles he never saw an Indian sign within half a mile of his house. His blockhouse sheltered four families all through the war of 1853.
AN INDIAN WITH A GRIEVANCE.The immediate cause of the outbreak of 1853 has only been partially explained. The Indian who killed Edwards and who shot Wills had a grievance. He laid claim to a woman who lived with a Frenchman. He went to this man and claimed his squaw, but met with a rebuff from the man and a friend who was with him. Then he went to Judge Skinner, who was Indian agent, who explained to him that he had no military force at hand to enforce claims, however just, and could not help him. He consoled with him, but that did not give him a woman to pack his firewood and do the small chores about his camp. The irate siwash went away breathing threatenings and slaughter, but no one put much faith in his threats until they learned of their fulfillment. One would think he would have haunted the ways of the Frenchman, the woman and the friend who helped to bluff him. The woman could have gone with him if it suited her to do so, but would not. Instead of lying in ambush for the Frenchman and woman, he started off up Bear Creek, cursing the white race. The first victim was a fat ox. This he killed and left. The next was Edwards, who sat at evening with his chair leaning against his cabin wall. The next evening he shot Wells. It was finally proven that this savage killed ten men before the end of the war, and no Frenchman or squaw was included in his bloody reprisals. He watched the trails and hid himself in ambush to slay and kill. Here was an instance where the vices of a white man, not an American, brought on war and fearful loss of property and life.
HAULING IN THE WOUNDED.Having about the only spring wagon in the valley, Tolman undertook to haul the wounded to the hospital at Jacksonville. Learning of the massacre at the Alberding ranch, where Indians, who had voluntarily surrendered, rose and massacred some and wounded a number, and knowing that doctors were afraid to venture there, he went up to bring down the wounded, among whom was P. Dunn, his personal friend. Henry Overbeck also went with his wagon. They found a log house, 20x22 feet square, and the floor literally covered with blood that had dried hard. The wounded men lay all over the floor, in the corners, and the middle. Several of these were emigrants, that were lately arrived off the plains. They gathered the wounded; the emigrants did the same with their wagons, and started for Fort Wagner, towards Jacksonville. When halfway there they discovered that one of the wounded had died. He had a wife and two children; they and Overbeck's aunt were in the same wagon. [omission] and their "plunder." Going down a steep place one of his horses threw himself off the grade. The wagon was upset and its freight of living, dead and wounded was piled into the gulch and the wagon tongue broke off. It was a had task to get everything back in place again. Each looked for his own, and they were widely scattered. They all the time expected to be attacked by Indians, but that trouble was saved them.
AN UNGRATEFUL SAVAGE.They reached the fort a little after night, and Mr. Gibbs died before they could get him out. The only word he uttered was the name of the brute who killed him. This Indian had lived [a line of type obscured by a fold] had only recently interfered, at great risk, to protect his life when white men would have hanged him. This was a case of the grossest ingratitude. This base scoundrel had betrayed and slain his best friend. He snatched the gun Gibbs carried out of his hand and shot him with it, he not having the least suspicion of his intention, while the Indians at the Alberding rendezvous were rising to massacre those they surrendered to. The mistake made there was holding the squaws as hostages. They were allowed to talk to people of their tribes who came near on the mountain, and thus made arrangements for their rescue and the massacre of the whites. Indians never assault a place of which they have no knowledge of the inside and of the character of the defenses. In his experience with Iowa Sioux Tolman learned something of Indian character. It taught him to always hold them as strangers, never to allow them to enter his camp, nor see the inside of his cabin, and he did not even let them enter his dooryard all the time he had lived in Rogue River Valley. The consequence was that no Indian tracks were seen near his premises during the war. After burying the dead the next day they took their remaining wounded in to Jacksonville.
TOLMAN TRIES TO LEAVE OREGON.Mr. Tolman only tells of matters that came under his personal observation, or that were approved and accepted as facts at the time. Many versions have been published of that war, but not the entire truth given. He declines to give many interesting incidents because he does not believe they were perfectly substantiated. Like the war against slavery, it had to come. The claims of Indians and whites conflicted, and fiery natures and reckless characters on both sides precipitated events. The war seemingly closed by treaty, but it had more of the appearance of an armistice for an indefinite time. Being desirous to commence stock raising without being interrupted by Indian outbreaks, he concluded to wind up business and go to California by way of Coos Bay, and while there to clear up an investment made there for the interest of two young men. He had two land claims in Rogue River Valley, for one of which he paid $400, and for the other $500. These he sold for $5500, and the growing crop of potatoes, hay and oats brought $2100 more. He left for Coos Bay in the fall of 1853. During the eleven months he was there only one vessel entered the bay, at a time when Tolman was not able to leave on her, and not knowing when another was expected to come in, he returned with his family to Rogue River Valley in the fall of 1854. In October he bought the Alberding ranch, stock, grain and everything the bachelor had for $8500. Falling in with the prevailing opinion that there would be no more Indian trouble, he ventured $3000 in cattle, and a team to run the ranch. He put in a large crop that winter and had a profitable harvest.
SIGNAL FIRES IN THE MOUNTAIN AGAIN.No sooner was this disposed of than signal fires of Indian war again lit up the surrounding mountains. There happened along a cattle buyer from California just then, and realizing the danger that a war would bring up on his stock, running in the mountains, Tolman sold the last hoof to this buyer at good prices. He had the great good luck to gather them up and turn them over in two days' time and got the money for them. While in one sense this was great good luck, in a further sense it was disastrous. For the second time he was cut short in his prospective fortunes to be accumulated by the increase of his stock. That was the business he proposed to follow, and it was useless to attempt it so long as there was danger of Indian war. The red devils when on the warpath found delight in destroying all the property of their enemies, the whites.
The signal fires that lit up the mountains that encircled Rogue River Valley that fall were precursors of a much more serious cloud of war than they have known as yet. That terrible conflict was introduced by an act of great injustice to the natives by a man who should have known better than to drive them to war by mere suspicion without verification. Fred Alberding, who sold his ranch and stock to Tolman in 1854, went to the States. The next season he was returning to Oregon by the southern route and made his last camp for the long journey just before reaching the summit of the Siskiyou Mountains.
HOW A WAR CAN BE STARTED.When preparing to hitch up the next morning, one of the ponies was not to be found. Seeing an Indian camp nearby, he concluded they had stolen his pony. Driving that day to the residence of his old partner, Pat Dunn, he industriously circulated the news that the Indians had stolen a pony from him out on the emigrant road. In a short time fifteen men were found ready and willing to go out and "lick" the Indians and recover the lost pony. This was only to be a little before-breakfast excursion for the brave volunteers. They went on horseback to Greensprings and camped there, intending to surround the Indian camp before daylight, but they overslept themselves and did not reach the Indian camp until after sunrise and then approached the little siwash village in battle array. Seeing this the Indian men all ran away from their camp and got into ambush across a small glade, the other side of it. The whites rushed through their camp, and out upon the open ground beyond, in hot pursuit. Here the Indians fired on them from behind trees and logs that surrounded the mountain glade, killing a young man named Keene and wounding two others. This Keene was a very worthy fellow, and the creek close by is called Keene Creek to this day, in honor of his memory. The volunteers fired several shots into the surrounding brush and woods, but it is not known if any Indian felt the force of their bullets. The next thing was to get away with their wounded and their own lives, and they had a hard scrabble to accomplish it.
ONE MAN FOR A REAR GUARD.The Indians followed them up and made the gravel and dirt fly up under their feet, as they said, for their bullets followed them up the hill that led from the scene of the tragedy. A man named Jennison acted as rear guard, and, being cool-headed and more experienced, held the Modocs back, as he dodged from tree to tree and made it dangerous to come too near. Loading and firing by turns, he succeeded in knocking over the brave who was foremost in pursuit. His shouts of encouragement were no longer heard. The Indians came to the summit, fired off their guns and uttered derisive yells, then returned to their own camp. The volunteers went back considerably wider and much sadder men. They had left their horses in charge of one of their number at the springs where they camped the night before. On reaching the Indian camp they found there no braves on the warpath, or equipped for plunder, only a party of men and squaws who were industriously picking berries, a condition that signifies the utmost peacefulness of disposition. To cap the climax of their humiliation, the lost pony wandered into the valley a few days after, dragging a bush that was tied to his trail rope. In dragging this rope it had got fast to some bush, and having finally--after his detention had borne very serious and fatal results--pulled off the limb or bush, he took the trail into the valley. All had been a mistake, and the men killed and wounded were great sufferers in consequence. The Indians, who fired their guns with such glee, as will be seen, proved in the end to be the greatest sufferers of all, notwithstanding their glorious victory. Tolman says: "The place of this defeat was where the stage road to Linkville crosses Keene Creek, so called in remembrance of as good and reliable a young man as could be found, though of no experience in Indian warfare."
ORIGIN OF DEAD INDIAN PRAIRIE.An uneasy feeling prevailed among the settlers in consequence of this blunder, and various unhealthy symptoms were observed. A company was raised to scour the country and find those same Indians. Finally a detour was made by them into a high plateau, dividing the waters of Little Butte and Bear creeks, tributaries of the Klamath and Rogue rivers, when, at the head of a narrow, long glade, the volunteers discovered an Indian camp. There was something peculiar in the fact that carrion crows, or buzzards, were seen in the air, circling above the village, and occasionally one would swoop down as if seizing prey. But, making all proper arrangements, they charged upon the camp. They found there only dead Indians. The carrion birds held no false carnival, but rioted in a camp of the dead. Since that time, and no doubt to all coming time as well, that mountain glade has borne, and will forever bear, the name of "Dead Indian Prairie." How to account for this holocaust of death was a strange question! Who were those Indians who lay there so still in death? Who were the slayers? Inspection showed they were the same Indians that Fred Alberding's volunteers had encountered on Keene Creek, for they found with them articles they had lost in their hasty retreat. One, who had a bad wound in the side that was partially healed, was evidently the leader Dennison had wounded while covering the retreat.
SOLVING A STRANGE MYSTERY.This mystery was finally solved by the statement made by a band of Rogue River Indians, who camped at the mouth of Little Butte, on Rogue River, to Dr. Ambrose. It seems that, fearing they might be some way blamed for the [a line of type obscured by a fold] up on the mountain in force and slew the last one of the band they found there. Keene Creek is not on the Rogue River side of the mountain, and those were not Rogue Rivers. They were peaceably picking berries for winter use. They naturally resisted the volunteers' attack. They must have been unsuspicious when the Little Butte Indians attacked and slew them all. We have said they were to be the greatest sufferers, and now we find them all defunct. The strayed pony has been fearfully avenged all round. No one ever knew what became of their squaws. But the end was not yet. Two fearful raids were after that event made on the trail from Jacksonville to Yreka. Probable Lake Indians organized both, and it is thought certain that Modocs were in the last. If these were intended to revenge the death of the Indians on that mountain, then the effect of a trifling mistake of judgment was very far-reaching. It is the labor of the historian to search for facts and draw inferences and form conclusions. He becomes impressed with the want of wisdom that prevails on earth and can hardly believe that his predecessors were such blunderers until he compares his and our own successes with their failures. There has not been much change in man since the beginning.
THE LUPTON-HAYES FIASCO.The next blunder, and the greatest of all, was the night attack, on Oct. 7, 1855, on the Indians who lived on Rogue River. Many more innocent lives were lost in that fiasco, and in the events that came in consequence of it, than by all that had preceded it. This expedition was organized by one Col. Hayes, and by Maj. Lupton, whose military titles were probably picked up on the road to Oregon. Hayes was an unreliable blowhard who wound up his career in Oregon by a sudden disappearance. Without any reason or excuse for such a slaughter they attacked this band we have spoken of at the mouth of Butte Creek. They raised a company of forty or more reckless men, took their time to approach and surround the place, and at daybreak commenced a grand slaughter. They killed many old men and some women, as the warriors seem to have been absent. The number of Indians killed is estimated at twenty to eighty. Two whites were killed and seven wounded. Lupton was one of the killed, so his account was properly closed. After perpetrating this cowardly butchery these brave men separated and quietly returned to their several homes, letting no news of the slaughter they had perpetrated get to the world; leaving the wives and children of peaceful settlers, who took no part in the massacre, to reap the harvest of vengeance that was certain to follow it. They could not help but know that the settlers of the valley would feel the vengeance of the Indians descend upon them. Thus was introduced
THE INDIAN WAR OF 1855.To be sure there was ill feeling among the Indians along the whole frontier from British Columbia to California, but that feeling had been brought about by outrages committed b white men to some extent. All the vengeance in Indian nature would be sure to respond to such dastard acts as this last, and the Indian creed of right knows no rule save to repay such acts in kind and return pay fourfold. Their reasoning powers could not rise to the point of recognizing that the white race had its good and bad elements. They had a briefer and more satisfactory theory of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Any eye or tooth answered for reprisal that belonged to a white man, and neither sex nor age was secure from that savage vengeance. The long lines of shifting frontiers that have moved with kaleidoscopic variety the length of this continent for two centuries and a half from Jamestown to Rogue River have been marked by outrages of reckless whites and the bloody vengeance of the expiring native tribes.
S. A. CLARKE.Sunday Oregonian, Portland, March 28, 1886, page 2
Another Letter About the Hardy Eastern People Who Settled in That State.
The Hardships and Privations Which Accompanied the Trip Across the Plains.
How Judge Tolman and Wife Took a Bridal Tour of Two Thousand Miles.
Crossing the Black Rock Desert and a Brush with the Modocs.
(Special correspondence of the Leader.)
ASHLAND, ORE., March 30.--One of the features which the traveler enjoys in Southern Oregon--and over all the Pacific Coast, for that matter--is the listening to vivid stories of crossing the plains from the lips of the pioneers who still survive. Again and again during the past two years the writer sat until a late hour of an evening spellbound by recitals of incidents, dangers, bereavements, and casualties which befell the particular emigrant train of which the friends of the hour formed a part. It is most singular how dear is each one's recollections of that perilous journey made so long ago. Every circumstance and locality was ineffaceably stamped upon their minds. Even the conversations are repeated as readily as if they had occurred last week. Had the passage been one of but a few hundred miles, and performed in a few hours, the happenings might well have been catalogued for long keeping. But in some instances the hour was from two to three thousand miles in length. Months of time were consumed on the way, and the horrors and agonies of the trip outnumbered the days fourfold. Still all were profoundly impressed upon the memory, and can never be effaced.
There is yet another strange feature of the matter. That is the fascination which that dreary chapter in their lives exerts over many of the survivors of that time, and the charm appears to be strong in proportion to the distance time has removed them from the hunger, thirst and fear and weariness they endured. Sitting today in their homes of plenty and comfort, they turn its pages with a pleasure which always strikes me as unaccountable. The fire may burn low on the hearth, the room may become chilly, the younger generation of the family--Oregon born--may drop off to bed one by one, still the narrator probably goes on until the deeply interested listener draws her chair close to the chimney corner and thrusts her benumbed fingers and stiffened feet out toward the few embers glowing faintly among the ashes. Then, if the speaker be an old pioneer, living in the neighborhood, and "just dropped in of the evening," it may occur to him that the book had better be closed for that time. If it be the host or hostess, the same conclusion is reached, and the listener retires, less to sleep than to think over hair-breadth escapes from savage beasts and far more savage men, or of death in the dismal solitudes of the mountains or on the margin of some boundless prairie.
On the 2nd day of last July the writer called at the residence of an eminent lady living in Portland who had crossed the continent with one of the earliest emigrant companies. It was after ten. The day had been very warm. She was to attend and speak at a celebration to be held some miles distant on the 4th, and had preparation to make for the event. Notwithstanding, no sooner was some slight reference made to her heroic life in Oregon than did visions of her ill-fated journey across the plains and over the mountain rise vividly before her. And long I sat absorbed in the graphic account the woman gave of the scenery, sorrows and adventures of the distressful way.
When her rehearsal ended it was no longer a mystery to me that women, and even young girls, after months of such extraordinary drill, were ready for the awful struggle with circumstances which many of them had to encounter the moment they set eyes upon this fair Canaan of their hopes.
If to learn to be patient, to be vigilant, to act quickly in great emergencies, to face formidable dangers without a tremor, to suffer the most serious losses and not repine, to quietly shoulder sudden responsibility, to sacrifice one's self for the good of others, and to trust the divine hand through the whole, be a profitable training, then was the education of the pioneer women of Oregon complete. They took both regular and postgraduate courses, and were entitled to the degree of D.D.B.--Doctor of Doing and Being.
No wonder that gifted woman, Mrs. Clark, of the Willamette Farmer, said to me last summer, speaking of her own journey from Ohio to Oregon, in 1852, I think, "I wouldn't be without that experience of crossing the plains for all the gold in Oregon. It developed the character of a woman as few other things can."
While seated before a cheerful fire in the house of Judge Tolman the other evening, I said to Mrs. Tolman, who was seated near with some light work in her hand:
"In what year did you come to Oregon?" We had been talking about the early days, and the Indians' getting ready for the celebrated Rogue River War.
"We came here in the summer of '52."
"There was a great emigration that year. Were there many in your company?"
"We numbered sixty-five persons and sixteen wagons."
"You have several times mentioned incidents connected with your journey across the country, and I should enjoy hearing you tell the whole story." So the brave woman told it to me, and this is about what she said:
"Our company left Oskaloosa, Iowa, on the 29th of April, Mr. Tolman and I having been married but two days previously. So the journey was my wedding trip. The company was mainly organized at Ottumwa, fifteen miles distant, where Mr. Tolman had resided. By common consent he was chosen to act as its leader or captain. He was a man whose manners and disposition made him a favorite and won him many friends, and the same is true of him still. He was well adapted to settle disputes and allay controversies, and in every emigrant train such troubles were likely to arise.
"The entire party accompanied Mr. Tolman to Oskaloosa, which was on the route, and were encamped in the place at the time of their marriage. Then we all set out for the Missouri River, by way of Fort Des Moines, as it was then called. The morning was a very bright one, and notwithstanding our farewells and home leaving, everybody was in cheerful spirits. At Des Moines a pleasant little episode occurred in the way of a serenade to Mr. Tolman and myself from parties at the Fort, with whom he had business relations."
"Were there no middle-aged men in the company, that a young man should have been made general-in-chief?" I interrupted.
"Yes, but Mr. Tolman had before crossed the plains, and therefore had some experience which was valuable, and besides he was not so extremely young. He was seventeen years my senior.
"Were not sixty persons a small company to face the dangers of the way at that early day?"
"I think not then, but ten, or even five years previously, to have attempted the passage with that number would have been considered extremely hazardous.
"Moving out so early in the season, we found the roads over the prairies of Iowa in an exasperating condition. Nevertheless all went smoothly until we reached that point on the Mississippi where now stands Council Bluffs. The town was not then in existence. There we found a whole city of emigrants, arrived before us and awaiting their turn to effect a crossing. The transfer was not then accomplished in palace cars, nor by a bridge marvelous as an exhibition of engineering skill, but on a slothful flatboat. As we were entitled to no preference we had to wait 'our turn,' which came after three days. Finally on the 19th of May our company found itself safely transferred to the western bank.
"Now, as before, my husband's two strong teams, carrying our provisions, bedding and clothing, and our carriage drawn by two horses, preceded the long train as we pulled out from the river with the vast green plains of Nebraska before us.
"That mode of helping the star of empire to take its way westward always afforded the best of opportunities for the display of human nature. Exactly what man and women were, in and of themselves, was sure to be disclosed by the bitter trials of the trip, even when no startling dangers of misfortunes marked the history of the company, as was chiefly the case with our own. And about this time there happened a trifling incident which exhibited the temper of one of our number, as well as Mr. Tolman's method of disposing of a disagreeable matter.
"A man who joined the company at Ottumwa had contributed to the general stock of eatables a quantity of butter, honey and similar articles, agreeing to assist in the care of the teams and of the company for his passage. He was now boasting that he was under no obligations to work, inasmuch as he had furnished ample food for himself on the journey. Informed of this, Mr. Tolman soon went to him, and with a tempting sum purchased the provisions, thus leaving the fellow no alternative but to work for his transportation, and putting an end to all discontent on his account.
"Onward we moved now, the hot sun beating down upon our heads, but under our feet the earth was carpeted with wildflowers of brightest hue. On every hand bloomed acres of brilliant cacti and rich moss roses.
"No sooner were our backs turned to the Missouri than began the usual annoying attentions from the Pawnee and Omaha Indians, though they showed us no hostility. The Pawnees were a nation of incorrigible beggars, and at night they swarmed about our tent as thick as mosquitoes in the hope of obtaining the things they so fervently coveted. After considerable such maneuvering on their part, Mr. Tolman sagaciously hired their chief to escort us beyond the bounds of the tribe. The step had scarcely been taken when a band of them suddenly sprang up in our path, but upon discovering their chief they as suddenly vanished out of sight.
"A few days subsequently the broad Platte river rolled before us. The unstable bed of that stream, owing to the presence of quicksand, rendered its transit not a little dangerous. It was crossed by fording. No sooner had several teams passed over than, stirred up by the heavy wheels and the feet of the animals, the sand itself set out on a journey, leaving the next installment to seek a passage elsewhere. Eight miles' travel up the south bank brought us to Fort Kearny, with its two comfortable abodes and other reminders of the homes we had left.
"About this time rumors that cholera prevailed among the trains in advance of us were soon confirmed by the sight of frequent newly made graves. Under the circumstances these facts were little calculated to foster cheerfulness in our ranks. We were now in a region where water to quench our thirst could seldom be procured except from the turbid Platte, and where dry weeds, grass and buffalo chips were the only fuel. The heat was intense. There was no such thing as shade. We were in a trying position and could do but one of two things--advance or retreat. The latter was not included in our plan. So we hastened forward, resolved to overtake and leave the cholera behind us. This we actually did, but not until after we had left Fort Laramie in the east an were well in the Black Hills of Wyoming. "One day we came upon a wagon drawn out upon the roadside. From it a man's voice inquired if there were a physician in our company.
"'Yes,' was the answer.
"'Will he not stop and see a woman who is ill?' he asked.
"The doctor alighted and found a patient in the last stages of cholera; the company to which the parties belonged had passed on and left them to fare as best they could. Further on we observed a freshly made grave which the rapacious coyotes had invaded. A number of human bones were scattered about, and on a narrow bit of board near I read the name of an intimate friend of mine, who had preceded us but a few days. She left a family of four little children, the youngest of whom also died before the journey ended.
"About June 13 we were all enlivened by the sight of a unique and surprising feature in the landscape before us. This was the so-called Sandstone Bluffs, a massive and stately body of rock, chiseled by the fierce storms which sweep through the Platte River Valley into the form of columns, castles and images of most imposing presence. The scene was decidedly relaxing to our overstrained feelings.
"The day following we encountered the Nebraska Court House, a huge, natural structure, resembling a vast stone temple in a state of ruin. It rises on the south side of the Platte in impressive contrast to the spiritless scenery surrounding it, and [is] an object of grandeur never to be forgotten. Toward night of that same day, I think, Chimney Rock loomed up in the distance. We had been watching for it as for a friendly beacon, and now hailed the slender, spire-like column with joy. Its height above the plain is said to be 300 feet. It was in view all the following day until we gained Scotts Bluffs with their crowns of cedar groves. Our train had long before left the south bank of the Platte, and was now making up the valley of its north fork, with the scenery increasing in interest every day.
"About the 20th, perhaps, we arrived at Fort Laramie. Here Mr. Tolman, worn by fatigue, care and responsibility, was ill two days. And here, during our rest, most if not all of our number indulged in 'writing letters back East.' I myself was so engaged when a wild, sudden wind storm came tearing through the camp, wrenched my tent from its strong moorings, and sent my letter careering through the air, off eastward, cutting short my story to my friends, but saving me the then heavy postage. I never learned that the missive was delivered, and so have never since patronized that system of mail carrying.
"Our train was well out from Fort Laramie when there dashed up beside our carriage a tall, well-built, broad-shouldered man with jet-black eyes, a Spanish complexion, and the air of a desperado. He was mounted upon a small Mexican burro, out of all proportion to his own size, and altogether cut a most ludicrous figure. Addressing my husband abruptly, he said:
"'Look here, stranger, I see you have two mules following this train which you are not using. Now, I want you to help me take them to draw my wagon, which you saw back here by the roadside, to Yreka, Cal., where I understand you are going. And more than that, I want to travel with your train. And when we get through, my woman and I will just vacate the wagon, and you will be welcome to it, mules and all.'
"'Well, that sounds well, in a man I never saw before,' replied Mr. Tolman, looking up much amused. 'I doubt if these mules will prove a very good purpose. They have never been broken. But how do you happen to find yourself in such a fix?'
"'Well, you see,' said the fellow, 'I had two good mules when I left Texas. Or, rather, another man and I started with two teams and the one heavy wagon. But one night he took the best team and lit out in the darkness, leaving me two little specimens like this, and they are not strong enough to pull us through. But I can break your mules if you'll just let me have them. I haven't any money and can't pay you for them, but you shall have my wagon.'
"'Take them,' said Mr. Tolman. The fellow did, and upon our arrival in Yreka delivered up his wagon, saying he had 'no further use for it.'
"We journeyed on without special incident until, one day, on our way up the famous valley of the Sweetwater, word was brought to our carriage that a wagon in the rear had broken down. Upon going back to the scene of the accident we found the parties in a truly pitiable plight, with one of the wheels of their conveyance crushed completely and the women of the family sitting by the roadside crying bitterly, their judgment telling them there was no such thing as repairing a ruin like that. Among the number were two bachelors with a staunch vehicle well lightened of its former store of provisions. It was but a short work to transfer to this the possessions of the unfortunates and then the bachelors themselves to our carriage, while Mr. Tolman and myself mounted our horses. In this shape we were again soon under way, I making the remaining seven hundred miles of our journey on horseback.
"Toward the last of June we entered the famous valley of the Sweetwater River and were greeted with a fine view of that historic object, Independence Rock. Our progress up the stream was between two lofty mountain ranges with majestic scenery all around. Some of the summits were mantled with snow, and we found the air cold and the wind penetrating. Finally leaving the Sweetwater we emerged into an arid, desolate region, now traversed, I believe, by the Oregon Short Line Railway in its passage across Southern Idaho. We here obtained water for ourselves and the animals only by digging fresh wells, as previous emigrants had done.
"After this one of the miracles of the route in the way of scenery was a series of colossal rocks, so dispersed and so sculptured by the fingers of the atmosphere as strikingly to resemble a town with buildings, domes, spires and towers. As our long train filed through the natural avenue in the center we ourselves gazed awestruck upon this great marvel. Most appropriate was the name--'City of Rocks'--which someone has affixed to it.
"Some days prior, however, our route had brought us to Black Rock Springs, a production of nature scarcely less marvelous than this silent city of stone. [City of Rocks is actually east of Black Rock Springs.] These springs mark the entrance to 'Black Rock Desert,' so named from the color of the huge stones about there, which is of hue Cimmerian. The water of the springs is extremely hot. A man of our train accidentally slipping into one of them hopped out with one leg badly scalded. He didn't care to test the temperature of that water a second time.
"Here we halted some hours, feeding our animals and cooking for ourselves, preparatory to crossing the desert, which could be done with comfort only at night, owing to the powerful reflection of the sun from the white alkaline crust with which it is covered. In winter the parched place is a lake. A remarkable feature of the spot is that the bodies of animals perishing upon it never putrefy.
"At our first camping station after leaving this lake bottom, a young babe of our company yielded up its brief life. The little body was enclosed in a tiny coffin made of the 'decking' of one of our vehicles, and placed in a deep grave, which the men thoughtfully filled up with stones, that the rest of the sleeper might not be broken by the greedy coyotes.
"From that time on nothing exciting happened until we invaded the realms of the Modoc Indians, who were now in a particularly hostile frame of mind. A train preceding us having been attacked and some of the party murdered by the savages, the people of Shasta County, California quickly raised and sent out to meet us a company of mounted volunteers, who formed our escort for two days before reaching the Modoc territory. At the immediate entrance to Modoc Lake the usual road winds past a locality called Bloody Point. Here the band lay in wait for us, concealed among the tules, and watching our descent of a rocky bluff, but a little distant.
"Fortunately for us, however, our guides, having discovered a short 'cutoff' leading around the lake opposite their lurking place, conducted our train through that, and brought us out into a sweet valley, stretching away from the lake, ere the Indians discovered that they were outwitted. But now they started in pursuit. So we halted, drew our wagons up in compact order, and awaited a call from the warriors. They were much chagrined at our good generalship, but protested to the soldiers that they simply wanted to learn where we were going. But next day their words were proved false, when nine men on horseback, members of an approaching emigrant company, also under escort, who either did not heed the counsel of the soldiers, or were determined to risk the danger, were attacked at Bloody Point and killed with a single exception. The survivor was saved by the speed of his horse, which ran until he fell powerless to go further. The rider then wandered in the woods, how long he could not tell, but finally emerging at the very spot where his noble horse had fallen, and which he now found eating grass near; he mounted him and soon overtook our train and related the terrible affair to Mr. Tolman and myself.
"But these were not the only atrocities committed by the Modocs. Some days subsequently, the volunteer force having all returned to their houses, supposing there were no more emigrants to enter California by that route, a train of seventy persons, unaware of the peril, fell into the ambush and to a person were slain. News of the barbarity coming to the ears of the citizens, a body of men quietly organized and went out to learn the facts. On their return they reported the scene which met their eyes as horrible beyond the power of words to describe. Mangled human forms were strewn all around, as was also the wreck of their worldly possessions.
"We entered Yreka August 24, without the loss of a single animal on the way, having laid over a whole day at Fort Laramie, and having made the quickest trip on record up to that date. Here we tarried ten days and then made the transit of the Siskiyou Mountains, which in that day was no trifling exploit. The men and women crossed on foot, while the wagons were let down the precipitous sides of the bold range by means of strong ropes wound around great trees, and allowed to uncoil slowly as the wagons descended. In that style we entered Southern Oregon, thirty-four years ago. Mr. Tolman and myself passed our first year near Jacksonville, then a mere hamlet of canvas tents and rough board structures. A year or more was then spent at Coos Bay, and in 1855 we settled upon our farm four miles from the present site of Ashland."
Emma H. Adams.Cleveland Leader, April 18, 1886, page 14
Within the past week I have visited, and of course drunk from, something less than a dozen white sulphur springs--cold, warm, sparkling with gas, and curative in their properties. The consequence is--of the drinking--that I now have lingering in my system no such formidable hindrance to happiness, no neuralgia, rheumatism, dyspepsia, salt rheum, scald-head, nor love of money.
These fountains for thinning the blood of the Oregonians are scattered all about the town and its vicinity. They differ not only in temperature, but to some extent in healing power. Still, all are the friends of man, and do their best to give the race pure blood, a clean skin, and flexible hair.
Two of them, one warm, the other cold, well up on the five-hundred-acre farm of General J. C. Tolman, some four miles from town, and much enhance its value, since they are perennial, and as wholesome for stock as for persons. It is said the animals will every time pass by common water to quench their thirst at the mineral spring, and always seek the tepid water in preference to the cold. Some years ago the General had the clear, fragrant fluid from the warm spring conveyed into his residence from the distant field, that it might be always at hand for drinking or bathing.
In my recent description of the long wedding tour of General and Mrs. Tolman, I omitted to mention that the former is a native of Washington County, O., and also that for some years prior to his majority, he was a resident of Urbana, Champaign County. Previous to their emigration to Iowa, the parents of Mrs. Tolman were likewise Buckeyes. So she is not without her interest in the land of frost and famous people.
Emma H. Adams, "Southern Oregon," Cleveland Leader, April 19, 1886, page 6
LVI.Among the pleasures to be enjoyed in Oregon, and, indeed, on the entire Pacific Coast, is the listening to thrilling accounts of the "crossing the plains" from the lips of surviving pioneers. Every locality, and every circumstance of the long, perilous journey, seems to have been stamped ineffaceably upon their memory. Even the brief parleys and conversations of the far-off time are recalled as readily as though spoken but yesterday. That was, perhaps, the dreariest chapter of their lives, yet to this day does it exert upon them a strange fascination, the charm of which increases, apparently, as time removes them from the hunger, thirst, fear, and fatigue they endured. The evident pleasure with which the survivors turn the leaves of this book of the past always strikes me as something inexplicable. Again and again, during my three years' journeying on the coast, have I sat spellbound of evenings, until far into the night, listening to these recitals. Sometimes the fire has burned low on the hearth, the room has become chilly, and the younger members of the family--Oregon born--have dropped off to bed, one by one, and still the narrator would go on, until I drew my chair into the chimney corner, and thrust my stiffened fingers toward the few embers glowing among the ashes. Finally, the end reached, I would retire, less to sleep than to think over the trials which befell the emigrant train of which that friend formed a part.
A PECULIAR WEDDING TRIP.
I remember to have called one evening upon an eminent lady who had made the transit with one of the earliest companies seeking homes in Oregon. No sooner was some slight allusion made to her heroic life in the state than the scenes of the ill-fated journey rose in her mind, and she at once began a graphic account of the sorrows and adventures of the distressful way. When she had concluded, it was no longer a mystery to me that even young girls, after months of such extraordinary drill, were ready for the desperate struggle with circumstances which awaited some of them upon entering these fair valleys.
If to learn to be patient, to be vigilant, to act quickly in emergencies, to face danger unmoved, to suffer serious losses and not repine, to promptly assume sudden responsibility, to sacrifice one's self for others' good, and to trust the Divine hand through all, be profitable training, then must many of the pioneer women of the coast have been educated in the true sense of the word.
I had several times heard Mrs. Tolman refer to her journey from Iowa to Oregon as her wedding trip. So, a few evenings preceding our jaunt up Emigrant Creek, happening to be seated together before a cheerful fire in the sitting room, she with some light work in her hand, I inquired of her:
"In what year did you come to Oregon?" We had been talking about the early days, and the deeds of the Indians during the celebrated Rogue River War.
"We came in the summer of 1852."
"There was a great immigration that year. Had you a large company?"
"We numbered sixty-five persons and sixteen vehicles. Our company left Oskaloosa, Iowa," she obligingly continued to say, "on the 29th of April, Mr. Tolman and I having been married but two days previously. Chiefly, the company was organized at Ottumwa, my husband's place of residence; and being a man well qualified to settle disputes, and to allay controversies--such difficulties being liable to arise in every emigrant train, you know--he was unanimously chosen its leader.
"Oskaloosa being on the route, the entire party accompanied Mr. Tolman thither, and were encamped in the place at the time of our marriage. Then together, we set out for the Missouri River, by way of Fort Des Moines, as the city of Des Moines was then called. The morning was bright, and notwithstanding the home-leaving and the long farewells, all were in good spirits."
"Were there no middle-aged men in the company, that a young man should have been made general-in-chief?" I interrupted.
"Yes, but my husband had before crossed the plains, and therefore possessed some experience which was valuable; besides he was much my senior, and older than you suppose."
"Were not sixty persons a small number to face the dangers from Indians, at that day?"
"Not then, I think; but ten, or even five years previously, to have attempted the journey with so small a party would have been considered extremely hazardous. Starting so early in the season, we found the roads over the prairies of Iowa in an exasperating condition. Nevertheless all went smoothly until we reached that point on the Missouri where now stands the town of Council Bluffs, that name being given to the Mormon settlement on its site, formerly known as Kanesville, by act of the Iowa General Assembly, in 1853.
"We found encamped there a whole city of emigrants, awaiting their turn to cross the river. Its passage was not then effected in palace cars, nor by means of a bridge, marvelous as a piece of engineering. As we were not entitled to precedence, we were forced to tarry until our opportunity came. This delayed us three days. But the 19th of May saw us all safely transferred to the western bank. And now, as before, my husband's two strong teams drawing our provisions, bedding, and clothing, and our carriage behind two valuable horses, preceded the long train.
"That mode of urging the Star of Empire on its way westward afforded the best of opportunities for the display of human nature. Exactly what men were, was sure to be disclosed by the inevitable trials of the trip, even in the absence of terrible dangers and misfortunes. This fact was illustrated by a trifling incident as we pulled out upon the broad prairies of Nebraska, which evinced the native traits of one of our number, as well as Mr. Tolman's method of adjusting a disagreeable matter.
"A member of the company from Ottumwa had contributed to the general stock of provisions a quantity of butter, honey, and other articles, consenting to assist in the care of the train for his passage. He now triumphantly claimed, that having provided ample food for himself for the trip, he was under no obligations to meet the engagement. Informed of this, Mr. Tolman quietly offered the fellow a tempting sum for his groceries, which he thoughtlessly accepted, and then discovered that his only expedient was to work for his transportation. Thus was brought to an end all discontent on his account.
"Onward we moved now, the fervid sun beating down upon our heads, but underneath our feet lay a carpet of green grass and wildflowers. Frequently we passed acres of cacti and moss roses in brilliant bloom. I must not forget to say that we had scarce left the Missouri ere the Pawnee and Omaha Indians began their annoying attentions.. The Pawnees were incorrigible beggars, and at night swarmed about our tent, thick as mosquitoes, in the hope of obtaining certain articles which they greatly coveted. After enduring considerable of their maneuvering, Mr. Tolman sagaciously employed their chief to conduct our train beyond the bounds of the tribe. Barely had the compact been closed when a band of them sprang up right in our path. But upon espying their chief they as suddenly disappeared.
"A few days subsequently we were gladdened by a sight of the broad Platte River flowing before us. Owing to the presence of quicksand, its unstable bed rendered our passage of the stream not a little dangerous. After a number of teams had crossed, the sand, stirred by the wheels of the wagons and the feet of the animals, itself set out on a journey, compelling the remainder of the party to seek transfer elsewhere. Eight miles' travel then, up the south bank, brought us to Fort Kearny, where were two comfortable abodes and other reminders of the homes we had left.
"Here rumors were afloat that cholera prevailed among the trains in advance of us. These were painfully confirmed, as we progressed in our course by the sight of frequent newly made graves. Under the circumstances such objects were little calculated to promote cheerfulness in our ranks; for we were now in a region where water to quench thirst could seldom be obtained, except from the turbid Platte, and where our only fuel was dry weeds and buffalo chips. Moreover, the heat was intense; there was no such thing as shade. We could do but two things, advance or retreat. The latter was not included in our program; therefore we hastened forward, resolved to both overtake and leave the cholera behind us. And this we actually accomplished, but not until we had passed Fort Laramie, and were well in the Black Hills of Wyoming.
"One day, while in the cholera district, we came upon a wagon drawn out upon the roadside. From it a man's voice called out, inquiring if there were a physician in our company.
"'Yes,' was the reply.
"'Will he kindly stop and see a woman who is ill?' he asked.
"The doctor alighted, and found in the conveyance a woman in the final stages of cholera. The company to which the parties belonged had sped on, leaving them to fare as best they could. Still further on the way we observed a freshly made grave, which gave unmistakable evidence of having been invaded by rapacious coyotes. A number of human bones lay scattered about, and on a narrow bit of board lying on the ground I read the name of an intimate friend who had preceded us in the doleful journey but a few days. She left a family of four little children, the youngest of whom died shortly after. (At such terrible cost it was, in many instances, that Oregon was peopled by its present sterling class of inhabitants.)
"About the 13th of June, our entire company was much enlivened by the sight of a most unique feature in the scenery before us. This was the so-called 'Sandstone Bluffs,' a massive body of rock, chiseled into columns, castles, towers, and other forms, apparently by the storms of centuries. To our overstrained feelings the scene was wonderfully refreshing. The following day, if I mistake not, we came upon another remarkable object, the 'Nebraska Courthouse,' a huge, natural structure, resembling a vast stone temple in a state of ruin. It stands on the south side of the Platte, in striking contrast to the spiritless scenery around. It was a sight never to be forgotten. The next attraction was 'Chimney Rock,' looming up in the distance. We had been looking for it as eagerly as for a friendly beacon, and hailed the appearance of the spire-like column with joy. Its height above the plain is said to be three hundred feet. It remained in view all the next day, or until we had gained 'Scott's Bluffs,' crowned with their inviting cedar groves. Our train had left the south bank of the Platte, and was now passing up the valley of its North Fork, with the surroundings increasing in interest every hour.
"At last Fort Laramie greeted our vision. There Mr. Tolman, worn by anxiety, care, and fatigue, was ill two days. During the detention caused by this, most of the party added to the postal revenue by writing to their friends in Iowa. I myself happened to be so engaged, when a sudden, wild windstorm swept through the camp, wrenched my tent from its moorings, and sent my letter flying through the air towards home, thus cutting short my story, but saving the then-heavy postage. I never learned whether the missive reached its destination, and never since have patronized that system of mail-carrying.
"Upon resuming our course we were all barely well out from the fort, when there dashed up to our carriage a man mounted upon a burro, out of all proportion to his own size. The fellow was tall, finely built, had eyes like jet, had a Spanish complexion, and the air of a desperado. Appearing to be in great haste, he addressed my husband abruptly, saying:
"'Look here, stranger, I see you have two mules following this train, which you are not using. Now, I want them to help draw my wagon, which you saw by the roadside, back here, to Yreka, California, where, I understand, you are going. And, more than that, I want to travel in your company; and when we get through, my woman and I will just vacate the wagon, and you will be welcome to it, mules and all.'
"'All that sounds well from a man I never saw before,' replied Mr. Tolman, much amused. 'I doubt if those mules will prove of much value to you, they have not been broken. But how do you happen to find yourself in such a fix?'
"'Well, you see, I had two good mules when I left Texas, or, rather, another fellow and I started with two teams and one heavy wagon; but one night he lit out with the best team, leaving me two little specimens like this, and they are not strong enough to pull us through. I can break your mules if you'll let me take them. I haven't any money, and can't pay you a cent, but you shall have my wagon.'
"'Take them,' said the chief of the company, curtly, and the fellow did; and upon our arrival at Yreka delivered up the wagon, declaring he had no further need of it.
"We now proceeded on our way without special incident until, one day, in the famous valley of the Sweetwater, word was brought to our carriage that a wagon in the rear had broken down. Going to the spot we found a family in a truly pitiable plight, with one of the wheels of their conveyance crushed completely, and the women sitting by the roadside crying, their judgment assuring them there was no such thing as repairing a ruin like that. Among our number were two bachelors, with a staunch vehicle now well lightened of its former store of provisions. To transfer to this the possessions of the unfortunates, and the unmarried men to our carriage, was but short work; after which Mr. Tolman and myself each mounted extra horses of our own, and made the remaining seven hundred miles of the distance on horseback.
"Upon entering the valley of the Sweetwater we were greeted with a fine view of that well-known object, 'Independence Rock.' Our route up the stream lay between two ranges of mountains, with majestic scenery on either hand. There were summits mantled with snow. The air was cold and bracing. Emerging from this valley, we next traversed a desolate region now enlivened, if I mistake not, by the Oregon Short Line Railway, in its passage through Idaho. We were here able to obtain water for ourselves and animals only by digging new wells, as previous emigrants had done.
"A great miracle of the way now presented itself. This was a series of colossal rocks, so disposed by nature, and so sculptured by the fingers of the elements, as to closely resemble a town, with buildings, spires, and towers. As our long train filed through the natural avenue traversing the center, we gazed awestruck upon the peculiar marvel. Very appropriate is the name 'City of Rocks' which someone has attached to it.
"I have omitted to mention that some days prior to this we had tarried several hours beside 'Black Rock Springs,' which mark the entrance to 'Black Rock Desert,' so called from the Cimmerian hue of the massive stones lying all about. These fountains are scarcely less marvelous, as a production of nature, than is the silent city of stone. The water is extremely hot. A man of our train, who accidentally slipped into one of them, sprang out, a subject for the doctor's care. His desire to test the temperature of the fluid was fully satisfied. Here we fed the animals, and busied ourselves with cooking, and other preparations for crossing the 'Alkaline Desert' before us, which could best be traversed at night, owing to the powerful reflection of the light and heat from its white surface. A remarkable feature of the place, is, that the bodies of animals which have perished upon if, never decay. In winter the depression is a lake.
"At our next camping station, a young babe of our party yielded up its brief life. The little body was enclosed in a tiny coffin, made of the decking of one of our vehicles, and placed in a deep grave, which the men thoughtfully filled up with stones, that the flesh of the sweet sleeper might be safe from the greedy coyotes. This, happily, was the only death in our ranks during the journey.
"The next step of importance was our invasion of the realm of the Modoc Indians, who, just at that juncture, were in a particularly hostile frame of mind. Owing to the fact that a train preceding ours had been attacked, and several of the company murdered by the savages, the people of Shasta County, California, quickly raised, and dispatched to meet us, a force of mounted volunteers, who, for two days before we entered the dreaded territory, formed our escort. Upon reaching [Klamath] Lake, the main road winds past a locality called Bloody Point. Here the band lay in wait for us, concealed among the tules, and watching our descent of a rocky bluff but a short distance away. Fortunately our guides, having discovered a 'cutoff' leading around the lake opposite this lurking-place, conducted our train by that trail and brought us out into a pretty valley leading away from the lake, ere the Indians perceived that they were outwitted. Soon, however, they were in hot pursuit. Our progress was immediately checked, and the vehicles were arranged in compact order to await their arrival. The warriors were much chagrined at our good generalship, but protested that they only desired to 'learn where we were going.'
"But the following day proved the falsity of their words; for nine mounted men, members of an emigrant company behind us, also under escort, who did not heed the counsel given them, were attacked at 'Bloody Point' and killed, with a single exception. The survivor being saved only by the speed of his horse; which ran until he fell, powerless to go further. The rider then wandered in the woods for some time, and finally emerged at the very spot where the animal had fallen, and there found him quietly cropping grass. Mounting the creature, he soon overtook our train and to Mr. Tolman and myself related the story.
"We entered Yreka, August 14th, without the loss of an animal by the way, and having experienced not a day's delay, except the two spent at Fort Laramie, and having made the quickest time of any emigrant party up to that date. After resting a few days, we effected the passage of the Siskiyous, at that early day no trifling feat. The men and women accomplished it on foot, while the wagons were let down the precipitous sides of the range by means of strong ropes wound around giant trees, and allowed to uncoil as the vehicles descended. In this fashion did we make our entrance into the beautiful Rogue River Valley."
Emma H. Adams, To and Fro, Up and Down in Southern California, Oregon, and Washington Territory, Cincinnati 1888, pages 580-593
Mines and Mining.It now seems likely that there will be a revival of mining interests in this state during the approaching winter and next spring. For many years it has been known that vast amounts of low-grade ore existed in Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties, but as large capital was required to work the rock and make it pay, nothing has been done in that direction. Men of means have recently turned their attention to these mines, and there is no doubt but that within the next twelve months there will be as many as five ten-stamp mills in operation in Jackson County alone. In Douglas County, on the waters of South Umpqua, rich veins are known to exist, and which promise to develop into vast deposits of untold richness. The mines in Baker County are attracting more attention than ever before. It is one of the most promising gold and silver fields on the Coast. There are several mills in course of construction on Pine Creek, chief among which is that of Judge J. C. Tolman, who is on the ground superintending the work in person. The signs of the times are hopeful for a wholesome change in the business interests of the state in the near future.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, October 2, 1886, page 1
The new buildings which Gen. Tolman has had erected at his vapor baths and mineral springs on Emigrant Creek above the Wagner Soda Springs were completed last week, and the baths are now ready for the use of anyone who desires to try them. They are located where a volume of gases issues from the ground--supposed to be not only carbonic acid gas but also sulfurous--and as far back as the traditions of the Indians go, the place has been a cure-all for them--[Tidings.
"Here and There," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, July 3, 1891, page 3
Miracles in Our Midst.The alleged "holy coat" of Jesus Christ is drawing thousands of invalids to Trèves, in Europe, who have a superstitious idea that it does miracles. The nearest performance to miracles ever done in this country has been done by Gen. J. C. Tolman opening up to the public the vapor baths 13 miles from Ashland. The number of parties who have been cured of nasty cases of rheumatism is too numerous to mention, and the relief given to several ugly cases of rotten catarrh leads to the hope that a genuine remedy for catarrh has been found. Judge Tolman brought over from Klamath River last week three squaws, from whom he is getting points about how the Indians used the mud for pills and poultices and the application of the vapor baths. Several holes have been sunk about there the past week and a new mineral water discovered each time. The oldest one of these squaws is Mrs. Tip Ward, who is very intelligent and has raised a number of daughters from her white husband who have married well-to-do white men. She says the Indians used these baths, etc., as their medicine and that it cures everything. Among those going there this week are: John Murphy, Sr., B. F. Myer, Harvey Shepherd, S. Patterson's family, P. Lyttleton’s sister and Mrs. John Clint and son. Prof. A. P. Armstrong of the Portland business college has been there a week and returned today with his wife and daughter, who have been there a month. All are going away practically cured.
Valley Record, Ashland, August 27, 1891, page 3
New Use for Indians.
Tolman's magic mud springs above Ashland are becoming quite popular among those who are afflicted with rheumatism and kindred ailments. He is having new baths constructed all around the original springs, and with each excavation a newer and nastier variety of mineral water has been discovered. The General has brought over several antique squaws from the Klamath agency to instruct him in the art of using the water. Of course, the wily general understands the ordinary saponaceous uses of the ordinary fluid, but the thing seems to be to combine the least cleansing properties of the viler mineral compounds with as liberal an application of mud as possible, and the squaws are supposed to be experts in the art. It seems passing strange that, with as many mudslingers as have graduated with high honors at Ashland in local politics, it should have been necessary to have called in the services of the aborigines. However, the springs are proving all that was ever claimed for them, and the General is happy.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, September 4, 1891, page 3
Miss Emma Tolman, who is teaching an art class here every Wednesday, was accompanied by her sister Mrs. O. H. Blount this week, who visited friends.
"Medford Items," Valley Record, Ashland, September 6, 1894, page 4
TOLMAN, GENERAL JAMES C., of Ashland, was born in Washington County, Ohio, March 12, 1813. He spent three years as apprentice to a leather manufacturer, and then spent a year at the university at Athens, Ohio. He early entered politics as an ardent Whig supporter of General Harrison. In 1839 he moved to Iowa, and ran for the legislature in Van Buren County, being the only Whig coming anywhere near election. In 1845 he engaged in leather manufacturing at Ottumwa, and was elected to the legislature from there. In 1849 he crossed the plains to California. In 1851 he returned to Iowa, having been successful as a miner. In 1852 he again crossed the plains and settled in Rogue River Valley. In 1853 he went to Coos Bay, but returned the next year and embarked extensively in the stock business. In 1858 he was elected the first county judge of Jackson County, and was reelected in 1862. For years he was prominent in Republican work in the state. In 1876 he was a delegate to the national convention. In 1874 he was the Republican nominee for Governor, but was defeated by the third-party movement of that year. In 1878 he was appointed surveyor general of Oregon by President Hayes, and was reappointed in 1882 by President Arthur.
Republican League Register, Portland, 1896, pages 272-273
Mrs. E. C. Tolman, Pioneer of 1852.
ASHLAND, Or., July 16.--Mrs. Elizabeth C. Tolman, wife of General J. C. Tolman, and a pioneer of 1852, died at her home in this city this evening after a short illness, aged 71 years.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, July 17, 1900, page 10
Death of Mrs. J. C. Tolman.Mrs. Elizabeth Emily Tolman, wife of Gen. J. C. Tolman, died at her home in Ashland Monday after a serious illness of about three weeks.
Mrs. Tolman has been ill with the grippe. Saturday Drs. Pickel, Parsons, Songer and Brower opened her for the purpose of operating, but failed to discover anything needing an operation.
The funeral services took place at the late residence at 10:30 a.m. yesterday. Rev. F. G. Strange offered a prayer, and a quartet composed of T. K. Bolton, Elmer Patrick and Misses Winnie Bolton and Isa Duncan sang. The pastor read from the scripture and made appropriate remarks concerning the deceased and the occasion. The interment was in Ashland cemetery.
Elizabeth Emily Coe was born July 24, 1829, in Mt. Sterling, Ill., and moved to Iowa in 1842, where she was married to James Clark Tolman, April 27, 1852, two days later starting across the plains with her husband, arriving in Yreka, Cal., August 24, 1852. They moved to Coos Bay the same year and returned to Rogue River Valley in 1854.
She leaves a husband, James Clark Tolman, of Ashland, and one son, John Crittenden Tolman, of Dawson City, N.W.T., three daughters, Mrs. Hattie T. Blount, Mrs. Emma T. Helman and Miss Ida Tolman, and one brother, Harrison Coe, of Ashland, and two sisters, Mrs. Mary Leighton and Mrs. Harriet Leighton of Iowa.
Mrs. Tolman was a highly esteemed pioneer lady and a remarkably good woman, kind, patient, tenderhearted; all speak in a loving and affectionate way of her, especially those who knew her best.
Valley Record, Ashland, July 19, 1900, page 3
DEATH OF GENERAL JAMES CLARK TOLMAN.
EX-SURVEYOR GENERAL OF OREGON AND PROMINENT IN POLITICS.
ASHLAND, Or., March 15.--General James Clark Tolman, one of the widely known pioneers of Oregon, and who was prominent in its affairs for 50 years, died at his home in Ashland today, aged 90 years. General Tolman was twice elected County Judge of Jackson County, the first time in 1858, and served two terms as Surveyor General of Oregon, being appointed first by President Hayes. In 1874 he was the Republican candidate for Governor of the state.
General Tolman was born in Washington County, Ohio. He apprenticed himself at the age of 17 years to a leather manufacturer, and learned that trade. His education was obtained at the university at Athens, O. He was an enthusiastic Whig from his earliest years, an was an earnest supporter of General Harrison for President in the unsuccessful campaign of 1836. He moved to Iowa in 1839 with his family, and engaged in farming. He emigrated to the Pacific Coast in 1849, lured by the discovery of gold in California. He returned to Iowa in good fortune in 1851. April 27, 1852, he married Elizabeth E. Coe, and 48 hours afterward was on the way with his bride to Oregon, piloting a train of emigrants across the plains. He settled near Ashland, which had since been his home. General Tolman had lived a useful life, and commanded the universal respect of his fellow citizens.
Oregonian, Portland, March 16, 1902, page 7
Death of James C. Tolman.
The death of General James Clark Tolman at his home in Ashland on Saturday morning last removes one of the most prominent pioneer figures in Southern Oregon history. Gen. Tolman was born in Ohio during the early settlement of that state and came to California with the first of the gold seekers. He afterwards returned to Iowa, where he was married to Miss Elizabeth Coe, and in 1852 crossed the plains as the pilot and captain of a train of ten wagons. The train reached Yreka in eighty-two days, without the loss of an animal, although compelled to fight their way through the Modoc country. Gen. Tolman and part of the train cross the Siskiyous into the Rogue River Valley, being the first settlers to come from the East direct.
When the state government was organized in 1858 Mr. Tolman was elected county judge of Jackson County and was reelected in 1862, although the county was overwhelmingly Democratic. He was nominated for Governor on the Republican ticket in 1874, but was defeated. In 1878 he was appointed Surveyor-General of Oregon by President Hayes and reappointed by President Arthur in 1882.
Gen. Tolman in the early '50s went to Coos County and lived there for some time, finally returning to Jackson County. During his stay in Coos County he took up a donation claim on the site of the present city of Marshfield and started that town.
He was eighty-nine years and three days of age at the time of his death.
Medford Mail, March 21, 1902, page 3
Last revised February 24, 2021