Pioneer of 1849 and 1852
copyright © 2011
Submitted by Jennie Hill Cobb, great-grandniece of Isaac Hill
As told by Mary M. Hill DUNN
My father was born in Tennessee, October 23, 1805, and died at his
home in Oregon July 15, 1864. His father
was Joab HILL, a colonel in the War of 1812.
Born in 1775 a son of Abner HILL. His mother was
Elizabeth Lane Hill, born in North Carolina, December 24, 1784. She was the daughter of Isaac Lane and Sarah
(Russell) Lane. Sarah Russell's father,
Thomas Russell, was a colonel in the Revolutionary war.
TIME OF ANXIETY
But over our beautiful southland a war cloud abided its time. Even the stoniest hearts felt a vague unrest
as the time approached to take sides in the issues at stake. In our home the call of the West clamored
incessantly and persistently.
In 1849, my father, Isaac Hill, was accompanied by his son,
LaGrande. His mother was Elizabeth Lane
Hill, who was a relative of Joseph Lane, first governor of Oregon. Three of his brothers went, Russell, James,
and George. Louisa (Hill) Keith was his
sister. With her husband and son, Isham
Keith and a nephew, Sterling Hill, they crossed the plains. They spent the winter in the Willamette
Valley. Father built a sawmill in
Clatsap County on the Columbia River.
Here he planned to establish a permanent home, but early in the spring
of 1850 news came of rich gold mines near Yreka, California, which stirred the
little settlement. Preparations for
going there were soon made. Russell Hill
had married Miss Cheedle, near Salem, and Grandmother Hill made her home with
them. They decided to stay in the valley
as did also my brother, LaGrande Hill.
Father and his brothers, James and George, left for Yreka where they
began working in the Humbry, so called derisively, and as it turned out, inappropriately. As they passed through the Rouge River
Valley, they camped on what was later Dunn farm, and its beauty was a loadstone
that drew my father incessantly.
When Aunt Louisa and Uncle Kelly reached Yreka and it became known
that a white woman was in town, the miners were greatly excited and gathered
around the little cabin just to gaze at her.
Aunt Louisa had taken a little sheet iron stove across the plains with
her. Now before an appreciative
audience, she collected her equipment and began to bake pungent dried apple
pies. This was more than those home pie
hungry famished men could endure. They
begged her almost tearfully for the privilege of buying all she could
bake. When that first day at Yreka drew
to a close, Aunt Louisa found herself possessed of fifty dollars and a thriving
business. It soon became evident that
the Humbry mines were rich in ore and the Hill brothers worked in them
successfully until the spring of 1854.
Uncle George Hill decided to go to southern California, Uncle James
returned to Missouri, and Father prepared to follow the trail back to
Tennessee. He bought two mules. He loaded one with provisions, mounted the
other, and set out for home. He arrived
in Sweetwater, Tennessee, in the fall of 1851.
DECISION TO MOVE WESTWARD
We began at once a preparation for our long overland journey to
Oregon. We prepared quantities of dried
peaches for our trip. It is never easy
to break the tender ties that bind a well-established family to the old home
community. My mother was filled with
trepidation and anxieties, yet she bore her fear in Spartan silence. My two sisters, Ann Haseltine (Has) and
Martha Louisa (Lou), my two brothers, John and Cicero, and myself were all
fired with the curiosity and eagerness of youth in their teens. Some of this feeling was tempered as we began
to realize the immensity of the undertaking in choosing the things that we
could take with us. Father left all of
our books except Pilgrim's Progress and the Bible. I smuggled my Kiskem grammar in and brought
it along without his knowledge, and I have given it to one of my
Early in February 1852 we left Sweetwater, Tennessee, for our new
home in the far away west, Oregon. All
our transportable possessions, bedding, clothing and food were packed in boxes
made of white poplar lumber just the width of the wagon beds. They were placed in a large wagon drawn by
mules. Has and I rode with the driver. The others came by horseback and in a light
rig. We went fifteen miles to Loudon and
stayed at a hotel that night. In the
morning we went down the Tennessee River for two days to Decatur, Alabama. One event of the trip remains distinctly in
my mind. Once we struck a rock and when
the shock was over the Captain asked his wife, "Were you frightened?"
"Not much," she replied. Then
turning to me she asked, "Were you?"
Thereupon they instructed me that if anything should happen I must hold
fast to a bail of cotton, and I would be able to float. We passed a shot tower along the way. A cradle of boiling lead high in the tower
was poured through a sieve and dropping into the cold water of the river made
shot. From Decatur, we went overland to
Tuscumbia (Ala.) in a large bus drawn by six horses. They followed the railroad right of way which
had been graded but not finished at that time.
The scenery was beautiful as we went through the country of gardens
and cotton fields with the darkeys singing as they worked. This was around Muscle Shoals of which we
have heard so much the last few years. I
remember it was a boiling tumble of water, full of eddies and rapids. Here we boarded the Saranac and went north on
the Tennessee River to the Ohio (River).
Then to the Mississippi. There
was a heavy storm at Cairo (Ill.) and we were detained there a day and a
half. There was a big dance and fine
supper on the boat that night. Then we
traveled on north to St. Louis. Here, on
March 1, we transferred to the boat Kate Kearner and left on our last river
ride to Alexandria (Missouri--just across river from Keokuk, Iowa). A stage coach took us from there to Athens,
Missouri (which later became known as Revere).
Here we were glad to visit on a farm with father's sister, Elizabeth
(Hill) Duty, and to rest for the next lap of our journey. We stayed with these relatives during the
month of March, while father and the boys worked on an outfit that we were to
take across the plains. From Athens we
went to Keokuk, Iowa, to visit father's brother, Claybourn Hill, who decided to
accompany us west. I remember one
evening we were singing "How Firm a Foundation," and someone said,
"Mary, you sing like your father."
He has such a beautiful voice, it made me very proud. The days spent here were too busy for
homesickness or regrets. We made tents,
sunbonnets, and other things for our comfort along the way. Father had a wagon made with a body in the
shape of a boat and caulked it so it could be rowed across streams too deep to
ford. On the side of the wagon hung a
stove with reflectors to be used for baking purposes.
Father purchased 150 head of cattle, mostly heifers, and a span of
four fine mares in the country near Oskaloosa (Iowa). Finally all were ready for the start
tomorrow. Nine wagons had been brought
up to be packed. Ox teams had been
selected from the 300 head of cattle.
Our family had four wagons, 150 head of cattle, six yoke of oxen, and
the mare teams. Our provisions for our
family of seven and two hired men consisted of cornmeal, flour, beans, rice,
bacon, sugar, coffee, tea, cream of tarter, dried fruits, and corn for the
stock. We had two tents.
LONG JOURNEY BEGINS
At last on April 14, 1852, we left Keokuk, Iowa, in company with
Uncle Clayborn, his family, Mr. Standard, who married our cousin Jane Hill and
settled in Brownsville, Oregon, two families of Templetons, John Pelton, and a
number of others, making a train of thirty wagons and some seventy-five
people. The roads out of Keokuk were
almost impassible, and at times the wagons were mired up to the hubs in the
mud. Travel was difficult and slow. Mud, mud, mud, that had to be gotten through
and such "geeing" and "hawing" to the unruly oxen, the
cracking of whips and the bellowing of loose cattle can neither be described
nor imagined. To jump out meant to wade
over shoe-tops in mud, no rubbers or galoshes in those days were known. Think of that first night out with tents in
the mud, supper in the mud, and beauther beds in the mud for the men. It was a great celebration for my sister,
Has, on her fourteenth birthday. But I
guess no one remembered but she. It was
very tedious all the way across Iowa, and we had to double teams to get through
but we continued on our way steadily and arrived at Council Bluffs, May lOth.
Here we found an immense city of wagons waiting to be taken over in
flat bottomed ferry boats propelled by oars.
The river was very high and some two miles wide. Father had written to the man in charge of
the emigrant crossing the Missouri River at this point and informed him of the
probable date of our arrival, and had received a permit to cross. When we drove up ready to cross with the
tongue of each wagon made fast to the one ahead, those who had arrived ahead of
us were very angry. They ran our wagons
back from the river and placed theirs ahead.
Then our men rolled the wagons back and placed ours in position and
stood guard over them all night. There
was great pushing and crowding. Many not
belonging to Father's train got across on his permit.
There were no houses then at Council Bluffs. On the Nebraska side where Omaha now stands
there were only some Indian tepees. It
took three days, May 10, 11, and 12, to cross.
Almost all of our wagons were transported across the first day. The next morning, May 11th, one of our wagons
and a boat loaded with cattle started across.
My brother John, a young man of twenty-three years of age, accompanied
them. Suddenly the boat sank. An effort to save John was made, but it was
unsuccessful. He was drowned and his
body was not found. A deep sense of loss
and sadness fell upon us as we left the river to continue our journey, leaving
John, who was so well beloved, behind us.
The next night we made camp on the site of the city of Omaha. The roads were very soft and miry in this
vicinity. We arrived at a bog over which
a bridge had been constructed by previous emigrants. Here we encountered Indians for the first
time. They had surrounded the bridge and
boldly insisted that we pay them to cross.
Father told them to clear a path and get out of the way, or he would
make it unpleasant for them. They did as
he ordered in a hurry, and we went on our way unmolested. Soon we discovered that three calves had been
left behind. My sister Lou and cousin
Caroline volunteered to go back and get them, provided they were supplied with
pistols for the trip. After they had
found the calves and were returning, the Indians gathered at the bridge again
and demanded the calves as pay for having permitted the wagons to pass. Lou told them to take them, but Caroline drew
her pistol and told them to get off the bridge.
They did so without further parley.
The day we were coming to the Platte River, we saw a black cloud. Father called to hurry up and try to get to
lower ground, but the cattle were slow and the wind blew very hard and it
hailed on us. However, when we arrived
at the river, we found we had missed most of the storm. The wind had blown the cover off the wagons
and flattened the tents. The cattle had
stampeded and the people were greatly frightened. We were thankful to have missed most of the
storm; we were thankful to have missed being in its path. Father endeavored to keep his teams in good
condition and loaded one wagon with corn to feed the cattle until the grass got
Brother Cicero had one yoke of big, rawboned oxen in his team of four
yoke. He named them
"corn-eaters." When he would
get in the wagon they would turn around and look at him wanting some corn. Brother thought he would get even with them,
so he took the leather aprons off a saddle and made them some blinds. They presented a very funny appearance and
caused a lot of laughter.
When we reached the Elkhorn River, we found a great band of Indians
already camped there. Uncle Clayborn
selected a good spot for a tent and requested a young Indian who was standing
there to move. The Indian refused and
uncle pushed him out of the way. The
Indian ran away and soon returned with a number of his fellows armed with bows
and arrows. They insisted that uncle be
punished. Father talked to them in their
jargon and they finally agreed to make peace if they could have a lot of
bread. This was agreed upon and, while
it was hard on the cooks, we all got busy and they were soon eating the bread
In the morning we crossed the river by propping up the wagon beds so
they would be above the water. During
this time we were milking about 30 cows where we had good grass and would fill
a large five or six gallon can with milk in the morning and put it in the
wagon. By evening we would have about a
pound of butter! Soon, however, the grass
grew scarce and the cows went dry, so we were without this food. The corn for the cattle became so reduced
that one wagon had to be abandoned. It
became so hot and dry. But, whether
under the scorching rays of the sun or pouring rain, go we must or we would
never get over the mountain trail before winter came. Sickness must not stop us or even death
except for a short time. We girls were
to cook supper, make down beds in the evening and get breakfast and the packing
done in the morning. It was our ambition
to be started down the trail before the train.
To get behind meant almost to be left behind.
Along the Platte River all the cooking had to be done with
"buffalo chips" for fuel, which we girls gathered as we went
along. We walked a large part of the
way; and when our man struck, I had to drive one of the yoke of oxen. So over that part of the road I at least
doubled the distance. Beautiful scenery
was often passed without a single look; we were so tired. I think the journey was harder on the women
than the men. It usually took two days
to cross a river and the women washed at these places. We continued our journey along the Platte and
arrived at Long Fork.
There were many wagon trains trying to cross it as it was late
evening. The beds of the river was
mostly quicksand and extremely dangerous to cross. So one wagon could not follow in the tracks
of another. Father watched them for some
time and decided we would go farther up stream to find a firm crossing. We followed up the river for two days, and
crossed without any trouble. Cicero
became ill before we reached Fort Laramie and he could not eat our usual fare
of fat bacon and beans. He begged the
boys to cross the river and get him some potatoes. Father was sure we could not get any potatoes
until we reached Oregon. But the boys
crossed and came back with a bushel of them.
They made a wonderful diversion for all of us to have a taste. As our small cousin Lucerne Hill watched the
potatoes baking by the camp fire, he solemnly stated, "All I want in this
world is just one more tater."
Needless to say he got it.
At Fort Laramie, where we arrived May 22, which was my birthday, we
found that along the south side of Platte the cholera had broken out and
hundreds were dying. Everyone was eager
to get away from the dreaded disease as quickly as possible and they crossed to
the north side below Laramie, bringing the cholera with them. All was bustle, hurry and confusion. Father realized it would be impossible to get
away from it. So he calmly planned to go
on our way and make the best of what should happen. He had a doctor in St. Louis prepare a box of
medicines to use and he probably saved many lives by prescribing these
Many would pass us with their sick and dying, stopping only a few
minutes to bury their dead by the wayside.
It almost caused a riot in our own train. Those who had horse teams galloped ahead, but
it only broke down their resistance; they were already almost unfit to travel.
The country here was barren and waste. Our cattle were getting very poor, and Father
lost two of his fine mares. But much
worse was the fact that cholera had come into our midst. Our train fared better than many others,
having very little sickness and only one death.
The little Picken child was sick a day or two before Father knew it and
she died. We managed to get a box for
the body and gave her a Christian burial.
The cholera stayed with the train until they reached the Cascade
mountains. As we traveled that 300 miles
up the Platte, we passed many graves, where loved ones had been left by the
wayside. These depressing lonely graves
coupled with constant fear of the Indians, caused us to face each day with a
dread of what it might bring to us. The
days when we were forced to do without fresh water were extremely trying; when
there was no water for the stock, we traveled night and day. We had a fine durham heifer that belonged to
brother John, who was drown, and she was very precious to me. She was about to give out on account of the
heat and lack of water. I stole a cup of
water out of our scant supply and gave it to her. Then walked by her side the rest of the day
in order that I might hold umbrella over her.
That help with a biscuit which I fed her (and for which I was soundly
scolded) enabled her to reach the next stopping place and water.
We could see Chimney Rock ahead of us for days. It was a natural guidepost, and the road to
it was very straight. We reached it June
One morning I was first one up in camp and upon leaving the tent, I
saw an immense herd of buffalo grazing nearby.
I called the men and one of them rushed out and begun firing into the
herd. Immediately they stampeded and the
ground shook so much that our cooking utensils rattled. It was a spectacular sight as they went
thundering off in the dawn.
This hill where the buffalo ran out of sight was one of the few
places I recognized when I followed the trail as I could by train in 1902, just
50 years after.
Our route led past Independence Rock, which covered 27 acres of
ground and towered more than 100 feet above Sweetwater River. We found good water here, plenty of green
grass and many lovely flowers. Thousands
of names had been carved upon its sides by those who had camped in the vicinity.
We traveled a long distance along the beautiful Sweetwater River and
eventually came to Devil's Gate, an opening through solid rock, said to be 400
feet deep and nearly vertical.
Practically all routes west came through this cleft in the granite
ledge, although they might take other paths at other places. We drove down stream in the bed of the river
for some distance. So full of deep holes
was the river bed that passage was very rough and dangerous. Many of us were frightened and nervous. At South Pass, where we crossed the
Continental Divide, we found the weather very raw and cold. There were snowdrifts all around and I picked
flowers standing in a drift.
As we moved westward, we crossed the Green River on July 2nd and then
into Idaho, where we reached Fort Hall on July 12th. We crossed the Snake River here for the first
time. We found the country across Idaho
very trying. The weather was hot and the
dust heavy. The cattle suffered for
water and we were glad when we reached Boise River, which we followed down to
the Snake River which we crossed near where the city of Boise is now. It was now July 31st and we lay by for a day
and it took us three days to cross the river.
The day the family crossed, Mother and Has went with the first load;
Lou and I stayed with the goods until the last.
The sun was very hot and there was a group of Indians near. One of their number had died and, to add to
our misgivings, the whole tribe howled all day.
It was nearly dark when Father returned for us. He loaded the three running gears of the
wagons, piled all of the loose traps on top of them, and Lou and I climbed to
the very top of the load. Across the
river we started. Father had been rowing
all day, and now his hands and arms begun to cramp so painfully that he could
neither row nor steer the boat. We
drifted down the river a mile or more before we finally found a landing
place. It was pitch dark by that time. Father told us we would have to go to camp
for help as he could not leave the wagon.
We could see the light from the camp fires, so we started out, making
our way the best we could. We scrambled
over rocks, brush and vines. Sometimes
we were up and sometimes, down. It did
not take much imagination to hear all kinds of wild animals, which added to our
speed, if not to our comfort. We finally
reached camp, two frightened, exhausted girls, and sent help to Father.
SIGHT OF OREGON
We followed the Snake River north and crossed the Burnt River; then
on to the Powder River and followed it; then across country. It was hot and dusty and we were becoming
weary with our long trip. We reached the
Grand Ronde Valley the 22nd of August, and lay by for a day. Father traded two cows for a beef and we
jerked it. This valley was green and
fresh with sparkling streams and was so beautiful. A Frenchman lived in the valley and had lots
of horses and cattle. Indians were
camped in wigwams everywhere.
At Umatilla, Oregon, brother LaGrande met us. And it seemed as though we were not so far
from home on across the hot country with a little water for our stock.
One afternoon we left camp, drove all night, all day and the next
night before we came to water at Mud Springs.
September 7th we crossed the John Day River and the Deschutes on the 9th. At The Dalles, September 12th, we saw the
first houses since leaving Council Bluffs, June lOth.
We came in over the old Barlow Fall Road, at the foot of Mt.
Hood. It was a terrifying
experience. All one day we traveled over
a peculiar shaped ridge called the Devil's Backbone. It was high and the surface was covered with
chuck holes which made it almost impassible.
Where the road left off there was almost a straight drop down. It was necessary for us to rough lock the
wheels and tie trees to the rear of the wagons to operate as a drag to hold
them back. We also used chains on the
wheels to keep them from turning around.
Only two oxen were hitched to a wagon and a man was stationed on each
side with a whip in order to keep them going in the right directions. The side of the hill was covered with women,
children and the cattle that were turned loose.
So steep was the grade that some of the women had to be assisted. A few days before, a man had been killed here
when his wagon turned over on him. We
arrived at Foster's October 6th where we found plenty of fresh beef and
potatoes. We had one grand feast. From April to October without fresh food is a
long time. Our first real stop was made
when we reached Oregon City. We lived
here for two weeks. Sister Has, who had
contacted mountain fever, was cared for by Dr. McLaughlin. As soon as she was better, we went on to
Salem where we spent the winter. Father
rented a large house that had been built for a hotel. We fixed it up so that we could live in it,
then rented part of it out to others.
One of our renters was Dr. Weatherford.
I met one of his daughters the day I was crowned Queen of the State
Pioneers reunion in June 1927.
Father came down with the fever and he and Has were sick most of the
winter. That year the snow was very deep
and the entire Willamette Valley was blanketed by a foot of it until the last
of January. Feed for cattle was very
scarce. Father had about a hundred that
he hoped to take south with him. Cicero
secured permission to cut timber. The
cattle browsed on the limbs and we used the rest for fuel. When the snow began to melt, Father thought
it best to leave Salem to find feed for the cattle. The first of February found us again on the
road on the last lap of our journey. The
road was so covered with water, that it was often impossible to tell whether or
not we were following the road. Wagons
would mire down. The cattle would
scatter and we could make only a few miles a day. It rained nearly every day.
We stopped at Brownsville, where Uncle Clayborn had settled. His family all grew up and married and played
a large part of developing of that part of the country. The boys, Lucerne, Marshall, Harvey J.,
Thomas and Sterling Hill, and the girls, Anna who married Mr. Woody, Elizabeth
who married A. W. Standard, have all passed to their last reward, and the third
generation is carrying on the work of the world.
The road over the California mountain was nearly as bad as that we
had traveled from The Dalles to the settlements. One wagon broke down and we were forced to
leave it. All the next day we were
looking for a sheltered place. We camped
under a big fir tree, built a huge fire and tried to get fed and dry. The next day we spent in camp and the men repaired
and brought up the wagon that we had left the day before. Lou and I had an interesting experience one
day. Just before we came to Elk Creek
near Roseburg, we loitered behind the wagons.
When we reached the creek, we found that the wagons had crossed without
us. The water was deep and muddy and we
hardly knew what to do. We found a large
tree that had fallen across the creek.
And immediately we determined to cross on it. We had two puppies with us. So I took them over and came back to help Lou
who had become so dizzy that she decided she could never cross that way. I told her to get astride the log and I would
keep close so she couldn't see the water.
When I turned around after reaching her, there were both puppies! I carried them back and finally we were all
across and started for the road. A
little way farther we found we had to cross another stream. Lou began to cry. Luckily we found another tree that had fallen
across the stream. The top branches
reaching over on our side. I told Lou we
could climb in the top and get down on the other side. I managed to get the puppies over and Lou
followed. We reached camp in time to
help get supper. Father gave us a
lecture, but no one knew what a hard time we had. We simply told them we had crossed on a
log. The first of March we reached
Canyonville. There was a mill there and
a few settlers. Father found a cabin for
mother and us girls, pitched camp there and made us as comfortable as
possible. Then he and Cicero started
with the cattle for the Rogue River Valley.
Father had been much impressed with that valley on his first trip
through it. And he had chosen a place
for his claim. However, when he arrived,
he found that Patrick Dunn and Fred Alberding had taken up that claim. So he moved to a place a few miles
south. Soon he had a little cabin
erected, some ground broken up and a garden planted. Leaving Cicero to care for the cattle and
garden, Father started back with a train of pack mules for us at
Canyonville. Since there were no roads
from there on, we had to leave our wagons.
Our journey ends. After one
month in camp we were eager to finish our journey home. Father put Has and me on a big mare he had
brought across the plains and told us to go ahead and lead the pack
animals. We had to follow the creek,
sometimes being in the rocky bed and sometimes up on the bank. The pack mules had made steps like stairs as
each had stepped in the track of the other.
The old mare we were riding would over step the distance all the time
and it was very uncomfortable riding.
When we climbed up the bank, it was easier for me as I was in front, but
easier for Has when we went down. If you
think it was funny, you just try it. It
took us all day to come to a camping place.
We got a bite to eat, spread our blankets and slept. I do not remember of hearing anyone say they
were tired as we were filled with the prospect of coming so soon to our home.
Cicero and LaGrande went over to Yreka to work in the mines, and that
left the rest of us plenty to do. Father
had an immense garden that year. And we milked
40 cows and made butter and cheese which we sold to the packers going over to
the mines. Butter brought $1.00 a pound
and cheese 75 cents.
I do not know how many days it took for us to reach our destination. Every night we had to camp early so that the
mules could find feed. We could not get
through the canyon in one day. And one
night we had to spend lying on a piece of canvas spread on the wet ground. It was early in April when we reached the
Rouge River Valley. It was a beautiful
sight, wild flowers growing everywhere.
Along Bear Creek there was a rancheree of Indians with a lot of naked
children running around.
At last April 14th, 1853, Father said to us, "Tonight we will be
home." How happy we were and how
long was that day! I called to father,
"How much farther do we have to go?"
He answered, "You will know when you get there." Along about sunset Father called, "Turn
to the left, Mary, turn to the left."
The road led along what is now Neal Creek and across what was later our
upper farm. So I was glad to obey
orders. And we turned and went around
the hill and there was our cabin. Cicero
was standing in the clearing with his back to the road. When I called, he came running eagerly to
meet us. He had spent a lonely time
waiting for us. He had tried to make
some bread and had used a cup of soda.
There was an Indian rancheree where the Walker place now is and his
other neighbors were farther away.
It would be impossible to tell of our feelings after our long journey
to at last feel that we were at home. I
wish I could picture to you the little log cabin nestling under the shadow of
the Siskiyous, with mighty oaks and pines standing guard, and the beautiful
wild flowers nodding us welcome.
Words cannot express the wild beauty of the place, nor our joy in
knowing our long journey was ended. The
cabin itself was a round one room structure, with no windows, a dirt floor, no
chairs, no table, no anything. The first
night we lay on our canvasses on the ground.
In contrast to our comfortable farm home in Tennessee the little cabin
was a sorry spectacle.
Mother was broken-hearted thinking of the advantages of which her
daughters were deprived. We began with a
will to make this new home as attractive as possible. Father made a table and stools for us
children and a chair for mother.
Curtains divided the interior into rooms. We brought dishes out from Salem with us and
a stove also. There was a wonderful soda
spring on the claim, and the highway to Klamath Falls goes right through the
claim where it leaves the Pacific Highway about six miles south of Ashland.
There were many things which were hard and unpleasant, but Mother and
we girls took our places side-by-side with husband, father and brother and
fought a good fight in making a home there in the wilderness.
Our staple foods, coffee, sugar, flour, and bacon were shipped from
South America to Crescent City. Then sent
inland by pack train. Flour cost from 40
cents to 40 cents (sic) a pound. In
Jacksonville we once witnessed a remarkable transaction where 52 gold nuggets
were weighed on one side of the scale and salt on the other.
When we arrived, there were very few men located in the upper
valley. Fred Alberding, Thomas Smith and
Patrick Dunn had taken donation claims on what is now known as the Hauch, Homes
and Dunn places.
Mr. Gibbs, James Russell and H. F. Barron had located at what is now
the Barron Ranch. The latter was then
popularly called the Mountain house, because it was at the base of Siskiyous
where the road starts up the steep mountain.
Dick Evan's place joined Father's on the north or what is now known as
the Kincaid place. Just after crossing
the Rouge River we came to the Tevanlt cabin, Merriman's next. Next came Dr. Coffenes, the Gases, Van Dykes,
Nenhouse at Eagles Mills.
I think Helman's, Emery's, Hargladine's were in Ashland. The fall of 1853 quite an immigration came
in. The Myers, Walkers, Wells, Myron,
Stearns, took up a claim near the Lytha Springs and John Murphy had a claim
Mother and we girls were the only women in the upper part of the
valley and were asked to help with the sewing for the Mountain house. We made bed ticks, sheets, pillow slips, and
were asked to keep them in condition.
The boys as we called them had one white shirt among them and it was in
the wash often. Our first summer was a
busy one. As there were many demands
upon our time and strength aside from the really hard work we were doing. Mother was nurse, counselor for all who
needed care and sympathy. As the little
valley began to fill up with other homeseekers, she was called on to help
welcome the little strangers in these new homes, or to close the eyes of loved
ones gone still farther west.
Yet there were jolly times mingled with the more sober duties. Our neighbors, all men did not neglect their
social duties. And on many Sunday
morning we would awake to find the fence in front of the cabin lined with those
who had come some of them many miles to see the "Hill Girls" as we
were called. Father would invite them
all in and we would spend the day cooking a substantial meal for them. Many of these men were miners who had been
away from civilization a long time. The
sight of the little home "with women folks" appealed to them
mightily. One day Mr. Gibbs brought some
potatoes and 3 eggs from the Mountain house and said, "Mary, make me a
little cake, I am going to eat with you today." We made the cake, Mother made some biscuits
and we had a wonderful meal. The
potatoes were the first we had seen since leaving Salem. Another time Mr. Gibbs brought us a cat that had
come from Crescent City with the pack train of Mr. Russell. That cat was the first one in Southern
Oregon. A little later Mr. Russell
brought some chickens to mother and she was most happy to get them. Some young men who ran a pack train to Yreka
invited us girls to attend the Fourth of July celebration that year. Our Aunt Lou Kelly, who lived there, wrote
that there would be such a crowd of miners there at that time that we had
better wait a few days. A little later
the men came with horses for us to ride, and we started our pleasure trip of 40
miles. We rode Spanish sidesaddles
covered with rawhide. There was only a
trail over the Siskiyous and in some places it was so steep we had trouble in
sticking to our horses. We reached Yreka
just as the sun was setting. The streets
were filled with miners who were anxious to see some girls and I believe that
Has, Lou, and I were the first girls to cross the Siskiyous.
Aunt Kelly invited some of her friends in to spend the evening with
us. Some of them were fine musicians and
entertained us delightfully. One man, a
jeweler, made all kinds of jewelry out of pure gold taken from the mines at
Yreka. He asked Aunt for permission to
give us something he had made. He gave
Lou a heavy gold ring, to Has and I, a set of earrings. He brought them over to Aunt's and put them
in for us. I have worn mine ever since
and have never had them out. While there
we visited the print shop the day the first paper was printed in Yreka. I remember I got some of the printers ink on
my dress. It was pretty taffeta made
with lots of ruffles on the skirt.
About the first of August, we noticed the Indians were beginning to
act strangely. One day a big fellow came
to the door when mother and we girls were alone in the cabin. Beside the door was a shelf on which father
kept some tools; among them was a whet stone.
The Indian took out a long bladed knife and began sharpening it. Then he carefully examined a pistol. Seemingly satisfied that his weapons were
ready he stepped inside. He walked
across to one of our curtained beds, jerked the curtain apart, then suddenly
spied Father's gun and started for that.
I sprang ahead of him, drew the gun on him and followed him as he backed
toward the door. Mr. Gibbs, who had been
following the Indian, and also Mr. Dunn came in a few minutes. They told the Indian to leave. He made a hasty retreat. Mr. Gibbs said he was sure the Indian
intended to harm us. A few days after
that Mr. Gibbs came after Father to go down the valley with him to see if the
people thought there was any danger from the Indians. They came back a little after noon. Father went inside to tell Mother and Mr.
Gibbs came in the shed where we were cooking.
I was making pies (they must have been elderberry pies for that was the
only fruit we had), and he said I better go in and get ready for there would be
a wagon here in a few minutes to take us all down to the Dunn and Alberding
place where a few women had already been taken.
After seeing that we were safely housed, the men formed a little
company of which Father was made Captain.
There were just 12 men, and Father divided them into three groups. They started out to try to make peace with
Sambo, the chief of the rancheree about one mile from us. Mr. Dunn and three others got there first and
the Indians began firing on them at once.
Mr. Dunn was shot in the shoulder and Andy Carter in the wrist breaking
both bones and severing the artery. The
others heard the firing and came to their assistance. They killed several Indians and took the
squaws prisoners, and brought them to Mr. Dunn's place where we were. They brought Mr. Dunn and Mr. Carter home and
sent about 20 miles to Jacksonville for a doctor. Mother did the best she could in giving first
aid, but Mr. Carter's wound was very serious on account of the bleeding. Lou and a man took turns holding his wrist as
none of the rest of us would hold it tight enough to stop the bleeding. It was a hard night for all. We had no beds, just rolled up in blankets on
the floor and we could hear the squaws and their children and the men on guard
walking back and forth. We were glad
when daylight came so we could at least see what was going on. Dr. Cleveland finally came and cut the bullet
out of Mr. Dunn's shoulder and fixed up Mr. Carter's arm. It was a painful operation for each of them
after waiting 24 hours and not having anything to deaden the pain.
Mr. Dunn's house consisted of a living room, a small bedroom, a lean
to and there was quite a crowd of us...Mr. and Mrs. Grubb and their five
children, Mr. and Mrs. Heber, and probably half a dozen more besides
ourselves. We had to feed the squaws and
children and try to find something for ourselves to eat, as we had not brought
anything with us. Father and another man
started to the hills to get us fresh meat.
While they were gone, Sambo came within calling distance and wanted to
talk. Mr. Gibbs and two men went out to
him and he wanted to make peace, promised to give up their arms and stay where
they were if we would not send them to the Fort. Mr. Gibbs agreed and let them come to the
house where the squaws were. When Father
returned, he was very much put out and said it would be a day or two until the
Indians from down the valley would come and attack us and that he would not
risk his family there unless they sent the Indians away. Mr. Gibbs said if he had 50 lives he would
trust them all in Sambo's hands. A part
of about 20 men under the leadership of George Taylor came over from Yreka and
took us from Mr. Dunn's place to the Fort at Wagner Creek. They made a wall of logs about ten feet high
in a large square around Mr. Wagner's house with a gate at each end and port
holes at the corners. We had a row of
beds next to the wall all around and a passage way between them and the
house. Besides the crowd from Mr. Dunn's
place, I can remember there was Mr. and Mrs. Sam Culver and two children, Mr.
and Mrs. Hiram Culver, the Reames, Emery's, McCalls, Rockfellows, Helmans, also
Mr. and Mrs. Sampson, and the Rileys stayed in the house with the Wagners. There was also an emigrant camp just outside
Among the company of men from Yreka was my cousin, Isham Keith. They all stayed in the fort the first night
and then went on down the valley to join Lt. Elliott. They went over to Evans Creek to try to
locate the main body of the Indians.
They soon found traces of them and Lt. Elliott sent back four men for
help. The rest sat down to eat and the
Indians began firing on them. They ran
for their horses and one man was shot in the leg. Isham put him on his mule and helped him back
to the timber. Lt. Elliott then ordered
Isham and some others to go farther up on the mountain and try to keep the
Indians from surrounding them. George
Tyler tried to keep Isham from going saying he would be killed sure. But Isham said he was there to obey orders,
and had just gained the top when he was shot.
Mr. Tyler ran to him and asked him if he was hurt. Isham said, "Yes, I am a dead man." He turned over, laid his head on his arms and
was soon gone. He was born in September
1834 and was killed August 17, 1853, not quite 18 years old. He was Aunt Louisa's only son. His father was dead. Aunt Lou had married Mr. Kelly. They buried him on the mountainside where he
fell. About four days later, Father,
LaGrande and Cicero went after his body and brought it to our house and buried
him on the hillside just across from our cabin.
Father gave 10 acres on the hill for a cemetery for Indian war
victims. It was part of Sister Lou's
portion of the claim. and she gave a
deed to the district. Our own cousin
Isham was the first to be laid to rest there.
Mr. Gibbs was the next to be buried there. The Indian chief whom Mr. Gibbs had said he
would trust with 50 lives, Sambo, first shot Mr. Gibbs in the arm. Mr. Gibbs said, "Why, Sambo, I did not
think that of you." Sambo grinned
at him and shot him in the bowels. Mr.
Gibbs was brought to the fort at Waynes Creek and died the next day. Mother prepared 17 of these Indian war heroes
for burial in the cemetery. And she and
my father are laid there as well as a number of other relatives. It is called the Hill Cemetery and the
American Legion furnishes flags for the soldier's graves each Decoration
Day. It is right on the Pacific Highway
six miles south of Ashland. And my son,
George Dunn, and the son of another pioneer, George Barron, have erected a
stone pillar at the gateway. My sister,
Mrs. A. H. Russell (Has) has done much to perpetuate this place and has carved
a history on a slab there 7 feet long.
My wedding was the first in Jackson County which at that time
included Jackson, Josephine, Klamath Lake Counties as they are now
divided. Mother had a cook down from the
Mountain house for three days preparing for the feast and Father killed a
beef. The fruits and flour were from
South America, packed over from Crescent City.
Mr. Burns from Yreka baked a large fruit cake for the occasion and Aunt
Kelly carried it in a bucket in her lap as she rode over the Siskiyous
horseback. There was a big dinner for
everybody. Dr. Cleveland and three other
men came from Jacksonville; Mr. Broner, a store keeper whose brick store is now
a Curio Shop in Jacksonville, sent me a box of cut glass, 4 glasses, a pitcher
and a dish. The men also brought a
carving set, chopping knife, potato masher, and a number of kitchen things.
Mr. Gaff came to our place to board in the fall of 1853 and made a
vault over Isham Keith's grave. A number
of Indians came to Mr. Dunn's place, killed two men and wounded a number of
others; killed all the stock, 2 oxen, a span of mules, 3 cows, and burned all
of the first crop and got away without being fired upon. I have no knowledge of how many were killed
down the valley, but many good men lost their lives. Stock was killed and crops burned all over
the valley. About all we had left for
our summer's work was a few potatoes.
After the Indians had quieted down, Father took us home and the next
morning a train of emigrants came in.
They had turned off the regular route at Fort Hall in the eastern part
of Idaho and came through the Klamath County and across the Green Springs
Mountains. The Walkers, Wells, Myers,
and many others were in the party.
Father killed a beef, and gave them anything we had to eat, and the logs
which he had for our house they took and built a high fence so they were protected.
September 10, 1853, General Joseph Lane (our kin) made a treaty with
the Indians near Table Rock. They agreed
to take $60,000.00 to be paid in annual payments. Many of the Indians died that winter. Some thought it was on account of eating too
many potatoes. Although they promised to
live in peace, they continued to kill and rob whenever they had a chance. A party of 25 went reconnoitering in the
mountains and found 3 Indians killed by the Indians and named that the Dead
Indian Country. Another party of five or
six men went hunting over the mountainside.
Henry Chapman shot a grizzly bear, but only wounded it. It attacked him and tore his shoulder
terribly. Chapman got hold of the bear's
tongue and held on till the others got there and killed it. The men carried Chapman down to Well's place
and he later went to San Francisco to have his shoulder fixed. But he never fully recovered from his
experience. That mountain was called
Grizzly Peak and is across Bear Creek from Ashland. They named Keen Creek for Mr. Kenn (sic), who
was killed there.
During the winter, cupid was busy and the spring found many new homes
being started. I was married to Patrick
Dunn, February 23, 1854; Sister Has married James H. Russell, May 9th, 1854;
Sister Lou married Alvin Gillette, April 25, 1855. Brother LaGrande had boarded at the Owen's
while running the mill at Clatsop and he married Bethena Owen, May 4th, 1854;
Brother Cicero married Sarah Powell, November 21, 1865.
Father and mother gave me 3 cows, Uncle Eb Kelly and his wife and Joe
Kelly rode over from Yreka. Other
neighbors there that I remember was John McCall, Albert Rockfellow, Mr. &
Mrs. Samuel Grubb, Mr. and Mrs. Giles
Wells (?), Mr. & Mrs. Jennings and baby, Celia Wells, and Hugh Barron. My dress was of thin white material much like
the fine swiss of today, and we used the same material for Celia's dress. She was my bridesmaid. John McCall was best man. We had a rather large house then with a big
fireplace and we had a nice wedding.
Rev. Myran Sterns, a Baptist preacher married us at noon. We stayed that night at father's and went
down to the Dunn home the next day. Mrs.
Grubb kept house for Mr. Dunn and she had prepared a big dinner to welcome me
to my new home. My father, mother, Has,
Lou, Legrande, Cicero and McCall were all there that day with us. My new home was about two miles from
Father's. A log cabin with beds built
onto the wall, a home made table, an immense fireplace built across the end of
the room which served as heater and cookstove.
Not a very pleasant sight to the girl of today.
Mr. Alberding, who had sold his farm to Mr. Talman and gone back to
Iowa to be married, came back the latter part of August 1855. He said he was hungry for some venison. So, on the 2nd of September, he and two
others started out hunting. They went
about 10 miles beyond the soda springs and camped. The next morning they missed a pony they had
taken with them to load with venison.
They were sure the Indians had stolen it. So they decided to go back for help and try
to talk the Indians into giving the pony back.
About 12 men went with them; and as soon as the Indians saw them, they
began firing. The men had left their
horses about a mile away. They soon saw
that the Indians outnumbered them. Mr.
Keen was killed. Mr. Sabar was wounded and
fell beside Cicero who helped him to his horse.
Several of the Indians were killed.
Mr. Alberding had a piece of the bone at the corner of his eye and the
end of his nose shot off. The men
finally reached our house, and I fixed Mr. Alberding up the best I could before
his wife saw him. And then she nearly
fainted. He looked so terrible. We sent to Jacksonville for the doctor, but
he could not get to us until the next day.
And they had to take Mr. Sabar's arm off at the shoulder. On the 25th of September, Harrison B. Colman,
Dan Birton and Calvin Field, each driving an ox team with wagons loaded with
flour which had been ground at Waits Mill near Father William's place down by
Medford were on their way over the Siskiyous, going to Yreka. The road was very steep. They would put all the oxen on one wagon and
take it to the top then another one until they would get all the loads up. When near the summit, Oatman and Fields were
with one wagon. He heard a shot
fired. So he ran up the mountain until
he could see the wagon and the Indians were scalping a man. He turned and ran down the mountain with the
bullets whizzing past him, to the Mountain house where he got help. They went back with him and found Field's
body by the roadside. The 13 oxen had
been killed, the flour sacks cut open and the flour emptied on the ground. Oatman had escaped and ran to Coler (now
Colestin) on the other side of the mountain.
The long run almost killed him, in fact, he never did recover from
it. Oatman had suffered much from the
Indians. A company coming West were all
massacred except two nieces of his--one of them died later. The other one was found some 12 years later
down in Arizona. She had been tattooed
by them and had been their captive all those years.
On the 25th of September a young man named Cunningham was returning
from Yreka with his team. His body was
found behind a tree where he had tried to hide.
Samuel Warren and several others were killed at the same place and we
suppose by the Indians. They had been
all cut to pieces. Their bodies were
brought to Father's; he and mother tried to fix them up for burial.
On October 9th, 1855, the most eventful day in the history of
Southern Oregon. There were about 20
persons killed and a number of women and children taken prisoners. Many of the women were later killed and some
died from exposure. A Mr. Harris had a
log cabin away north of Jacksonville.
This day he was working about the place.
About 9 o'clock when he saw a band of 15 or 20 Indians, he returned to
the house and as he turned to close the door, a volley of at least a dozen
shots struck him in the breast. His
daughter, Sophia, only 7 was shot also, but she ran upstairs without making an
outcry. Mrs. Harris took the gun from
her dying husband and kept firing from a chink in the wall for five hours. The Indians scattered about 2 o'clock
evidently thinking there were a number of men inside. She then noticed a trickle of blood from
upstairs. Rushing up she found little
Sophia had been wounded. Carefully
bandaging the wound and applying restoratives, her next thought was for her little
boy, David, about 10. He had gone to
spend the day with a bachelor friend, Samuel Bowden, who lived a quarter of a
mile away. She straightened her
husband's body and finally slipped out into the dark carrying Sophia and hid in
the brush until morning. She heard
horses coming and was terribly frightened as she thought it was the Indians,
but it proved to be a detachment of soldiers under the command of Major
Fitzgerald. After burying the dead and
taking Mrs. Harris and little girl to Jacksonville, they searched everywhere
for David, but not even the child's wagon which he had with him could be
found. Sophia married John S. Love of
Jacksonville, but died in the smallpox scourge of 1869. She left 2 children, Mary and George, who
often heard their grandmother tell of their heroic and intrepid mother. It would be difficult to tell the state of
alarm which swept over when the details of the massacre became known. All business was stopped, and most of the
families near Jacksonville went there for the winter. Others built club houses near their homes
where a number of families could stay.
We covered the windows of our house with slabs and filled sacks with
grain and lined the kitchen with them as high as our heads. We had port holes through them so we could
fire if we were attacked and kept two big barrels of water on hand in case we
should be surrounded. Father, Mother,
Mr. & Mrs. Alberding, her sister and a friend from Iowa and a man who was
working for us stayed with us. We lived
this way all winter. The worst of the
fighting was down the valley. And many
were killed where Grant's Pass is now.
Just before his death, Mr. Wagner was telling Mr. Dunn and I that his
company had found a large band of Indians near Table Rock and how they got
behind some trees and would stick their hats out. The Indians riddled their hats, but used all
their ammunition in doing so. Some of
the men fighting lost their toes off their feet and some died from standing up
to their knees in snow. The next spring
the Indians were subdued and the government placed them on a reservation at
Siletz, north of Newport. We were then
free from further trouble with them.
As the country was settled and business developed, we lived a life
any American family with varied interests of home, church and school.
My grandmother, Elizabeth (Lane) Hill who came out to Oregon in 1849
came and stayed with us for a while. She
was very fond of my oldest daughter Elizabeth.
In 1856, Cousin Ollie Duty said she came back in 1860. She wanted to return to Tennessee to see her
mother. Uncle George Hill took her to
San Francisco and put her on a boat for Panama.
She crossed the Isthmus on a mule.
One day she loitered behind the rest of the pack train. They thought she must be lost. In the evening, however, she came trotting
into camp. She then went by boat to New
York and across the country to Athens, Missouri, where her daughter Elizabeth
(Hill) Duty lived. Her mother died that
winter, so she was not permitted to see her again.
An honor that came to me of which I feel rightfully proud is that of
crowned "Mother Queen" of the Oregon Pioneers June 23, 1927. J. D. Lee of Portland, Pioneer of 1864,
placed the crown and congratulated me.
My daughter, Mrs. Ella D. Rice; my granddaughter, Mrs. William G. Smith,
and my great-granddaughter Jannett Smith completed the circle of four
generations there. I am happy to live
over my 92 years in retrospect, surrounded by my family and host of friends.
My grandfather Fine would never say, "Good-bye" but "I
wish you well," so may I close my story with these words, "I wish you
*1: This does not correspond with other family research (e.g., East Goes West by Alta D. Craft.