Isaac Hill
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.[1] 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.


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.


 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 granddaughters.

 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.


 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 better.

 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 of peace.

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 medicines.

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 6th.

 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.


 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.

 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.

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.

 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 near by.

 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 the enclosure.

 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.

 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.

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.

 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 well."

*1: This does not correspond with other family research (e.g., East Goes West by Alta D. Craft.


My name is Stephenie Flora. Thanks for stopping by
. Return to [ Home Page ] All [ Comments and Inquiries ] are welcome.