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The Battle of the Abiqua - March 5, 6, 1848
From: A History of Silverton Country
By Robert Horace Down
Berncliff Press, Portland, OR 91926
The Abiqua River lies in the heart of the Silverton country.
Rising in the high Cascades, it flows in an almost due westerly course to its
juncture with Pudding
River. As it debouches upon the plain, its vale is scarcely a mile in width;
nearing its confluence its gentle slopes draw in the waters thrice that far.
From the hills to its mouth it is six miles. On the northern bank stands a hilly
eminence, some three hundred feet in height, termed by the early settlers "the
butte," on whose summit now stands Mount Angel College. To the Indians it was
Topalamahoh, the "place of communion," and its savage shrine drew worshippers
from afar. Eastward along the upper reaches of the stream, from ancient times, a
pathway led over the mountains, the Abiqua trail. Over it the Cayuse came to the
pleasant land of his Molalla kinsmen, who spoke his tongue, but who remembered
naught of his old home beyond the ranges.
Along the ancient stream tradition relates that bloody battles
were fought and the ghosts of the slain, disconsolately wandering to and fro,
haunted its forbidden
ground. As it emerges from its rocky gorge, it was crossed by the Klamath
trail. From the frosty plateaus of the Klamath, the land of Kemush, to the lazy
Chinook tepees by the falls and beyond to the rich salmon villages beside the
Great River, the Klamath trail carried the commerce of tribesmen north and south
with the seasons. At the waters of the Abiqua, it first reached the warm,
sheltered levels of the Willamette valley. Here as winter came the Klamaths
gathered by the village of their kinsmen, the Molallas, far from the cold and
storms of their southern homeland.
As early as 1844, the Molallas and the Klamaths were committing depredations.
The country was filling up with settlers. The affray at Oregon City, in which
Cockstock, a Wasco, a tribe intermarried with the Molallas, lost his life and
George W. Le Breton, secretary of the Provisional government, was killed,
excited the natives. The Cayuses were restless as early as 1846, and began to
threaten Doctor Whitman. Klickitats often entered the Willamette Valley,
claiming some rights antedating the arrival of the first whites. The fate of
eastern tribes was well known in the west. It was a period of unrest throughout
the northwest. The quiet of village life was often disturbed by outlaws among
the Indians, who preached a war of extermination. The settlers' stock roamed at
large, because there were as yet no fences. Cattle on the range was slaughtered
and barbecued on the spot at the expense of the immigrant.
In the autumn of 1847, the situation rapidly grew worse. In
November the Cayuses killed Doctor Whitman and several members of his mission at Waiilatpu. News reached the settlements in the Willamette early in December.
Most of the men who could be spared at once volunteered for service in the
campaign against the Cayuses. Many of these men had taken up donation claims.
While they were gone, their families and their cabins were left unprotected. The
savages broke into many, stealing blankets and clothing, or whatever was to be
found there. The donation claim of James Harpole in the Waldo Hills was on the
Klamath trail. Indians passing by stole a sack of flour. His daughter Belly went
over to David Colver's, where the men of the neighborhood were raising a barn.
Harpole, with James Brown and others, took their horses and pursued the thieves,
but did not overtake
Crooked Finger, "a desperate Molalla"
controlling the Molallas and the band of Klamaths on the Abiqua, was continually
traveling from the Molalla River to the Santiam on the Klamath trail, insulting
settlers' wives by ordering them, in the absence of the men of the household, to
cook him a meal at any time of the day. As nearly all the settlers along the
trail were newcomers, he often succeeded by threats and gestures in frightening
them to do his will. He said all the brave men were gone to war and he could do
as he pleased. With a band of Klamaths to support him, Crooked Finger drove off
a settler from the claim Leonard Schindler afterwards acquired.
One day, while Richard Miller was absent, the Klamaths and
Molallas came to the cabin, where Mrs. Miller, frightened by their threats and
insults, cooked dinner for them. After eating everything on the table, they
celebrated the feast by dancing on it. Such insults were not to be borne
quietly. The settlers began to prepare for the trouble which was now apparently
near at hand. Companies of "home guards" were organized to be in readiness at a
moment's warning. In the Waldo Hills, Ralph C. Geer was chosen captain of "as
brave a company of men as ever mustered." "They met every Saturday at Squire
Dunbar's place to drill." "Sometimes I laugh at the condition we presented on
dress parade, for on trying to form a straight line our eyes would be attracted
to a pair of buckskin pants that would not form a line."
Over on the Santiam, Alien J. Davie raised a company of
mounted men. Samuel Parker's company was made up of men residing near Salem.
Richard Miller, after the visit of the braves to his house, got together the
settlers between the Abiqua and Butte Creek and some few from Elliot's Prairie
in Clackamas county.
As the Cayuse war went on with the savages unchastised and the
murderers still at large, Cayuse emissaries to all the neighboring tribes east
and west were working feverishly to form a native coalition for a war of
extermination. The indications of trouble in the Silverton country grew more
ominous day by day. Eighty Klamath warriors were at the Molalla camp on the
Abiqua. Cattle and other property continued to disappear. When the Molallas were
accused, they denied the offense and suggested the guilt of the Klamaths. These
in turn stoutly maintained their entire innocence, but intimated that their
kinsmen, the Molallas, were not a bit past stealing. In this dilemma, since eye
witnesses were usually wanting, there was nothing for the settler to do but to
retire discomfited from the parley, leaving the thieves in possession of the
stolen goods. At these successes the insolence of Klamath and Molalla increased.
Early in March, 1848, two Cayuse scouts arrived at the village
on the Abiqua which was on land later acquired as a donation claim by George
Woolen. To the settlers the annoyances of past depredations now became a
deep-seated anxiety, lest the valley Indians be excited into a general war
against the weakened settlements. It was well known that the Palouses and some
Nez Perces had joined the Cayuses, although things in eastern Oregon quieted
down after Governor Abernethy's peace commission explained to the tribes that
only the actual murderers were wanted.
To prevent the consummation of so dire a calamity by
anticipating it if possible, some of the settlers living nearby determined to
visit the Molalla village and hold a council with Coosta, the Molalla chief.
As they approached the camp coming down over the hill from the
northeast, they unexpectedly came upon the Cayuse scouts and made them
prisoners. The reason for their presence in the country was demanded but the
spies assumed a haughty and defiant attitude and refused to answer. They stated,
however, that the Klamaths had determined not to leave the valley and that the
settlers could not force them to return; as they would keep concealed in the
forest. The prisoners were placed on a high precipice overhanging the Abiqua,
which was at a flood stage, and some of the settlers were left to guard them.
The remainder of the party, according to the prearranged plan, proceeded toward
Coosta's village, a few hundred yards down stream. The Molalla was sullen,
answering only in grunts and dark looks. He refused to explain the presence of
the Cayuses and said he would protect them. Coosta respected Richard Miller as
the leader of the settlers. It is difficult to explain his silence when
He did not know the Cayuses were prisoners. Perhaps he thought
them well on their way home from their unsuccessful mission. If he suspected
their capture he might have thought thus to safeguard them.
Coosta stoutly asserted the right of the Klamaths to remain,
saying they were his kinsmen and under his protection.
At this moment the sound of firing was heard. The guards came
down from the cliff above. They told a thrilling tale. To escape the evident
wrath of the excited settlers, the two Cayuses leaping from the rocky cliff, had
plunged headlong into the boiling flood half a hundred feet below and safely
fled despite the rain of bullets hurled upon them. The settlers now returned
Early in the morning of March 4, fifty Molallas and Klamaths
in battle regalia appeared at the cabin of John Warnock and demanded that he go
with them to Richard Miller's to act as interpreter. Evidently an important
council was about to be held. The Indians were especially afraid of Miller and
were resolved to do something to him. For several days they had dressed in their
war paint and gone about his neighborhood whooping and yelling furiously but
doing nothing. Their actions had, however, greatly alarmed the community.
Warnock's fearlessness was equal to the occasion. Leaving his wife at the cabin,
he took down his rifle and walked out in the midst of the sullen warriors. He
directed Coosta to precede him on the trail, which the chief did, marching his
men on ahead. During the half hour's walk to Miller's, Warnock never took his
eyes off the chief, who in turn cast uneasy glances over his shoulder at the
face of the resolute Scotchman.
He told Coosta that at the first sign of treachery there would
be one Indian the less and the chief took him at his word.
The little valley quickly passed over its strange cavalcade.
Not unseen, however, for the long line of savages was observed by the settlers,
now thoroughly alarmed. On their fastest horses they spread the alarm to the
settlements of Molalla Prairie, Howell's Prairie, the Waldo Hills and beyond to
the Santiam. Thomas B. Allen, the son of Samuel Allen, was one who carried the
alarm northward to William Elliott in Clackamas county. There had been a
"raising" there that day and he expected to find a crowd.
The Miller cabin stood in a hollow of the hill a few hundred
feet north of the cemetery and perhaps two hundred feet east of the present
road. Alarmed by the whooping savages, neighbors took refuge in the cabin.
Upon their arrival the Indians put on their boldest front, and
the purpose of the council was now apparent. They alleged that the Cayuse spies
had been killed by the settlers left to guard them and demanded five horses in
payment. These demands were refused when Warnock stated that he had seen the
Cayuses alone the day before and that one of them had shown him a lock of hair
which he said had been cut from his head by a bullet of one of the guards. Upon
receiving this information, Miller refused the demand for payment, but offered
to give them dinner.
The whites went into the cabin and barred the door, while an
angry parley ensued. The chiefs were making no efforts to control the warriors
and some shots were fired into the walls of the cabin. When Coosta came to the
door to repeat his demands, he was seized by Warnock and unceremoniously pulled
into the cabin. The men of those days carried butcher knives in their boots or
on their hips. Grasping Coosta by his scalp, he drew one of these gleaming
weapons and jamming the startled savage down on a block or stool, he raised his
scalp. "I," said Warnock, "am a
Unless you take your men and depart in peace I will kill you." Coosta knew this
was the truth and ordered his men to stop firing. The
Indians then withdrew but not before threatening to "cut the throats of the Miller, Warnock and
These terrible threats stirred the settlers to belated action.
News of impending war spread like wild-fire to distant settlements. Early on the
morning of the 5th the companies of home guards appeared at Warnock's, the
appointed rendezvous. A council was held and Daniel Waldo was elected colonel.
It was decided that the Klamaths should be sent home.
The Indians had retired to the Molalla camp at the foot of the
hills. Here for some distance to the west the south bank was heavily wooded with
dense underbrush, while a little prairie ran along the north shore from John
Patterson's claim almost to Coosta's camp. The men on foot under
Ralph Geer went
up the south side, while Davie's horsemen, with some additional men, proceeded
across the prairie. Daniel Waldo was in command of the contingent on the north
side. Under Geer were William Parker, first lieutenant; James Harpole, second
lieutenant; Wilburn King, orderly sergeant, James Brown, S. D. Maxon, Lorenzo
Byrd, Israel Show, Robert Show, King Hibbard, William Brisbin, Miles Winchester,
Porter Gilliam, William Howell, Thomas E. Howell, George W. Howell, Leander
Davis, Leonard Eoff, George W. Hunt and James Williams. These were of Geer's own
company. John Warnock, familiar with the vicinity, acted as guide.
Others in the south side company were J. W. Shrum, Thomas
Shrum and Henry Shrum from the Waldo Hills, Elias Cox, Cyrus Smith, Samuel Allen
and Thomas B. Allen from the Abiqua. Jacob Caplinger, from near Salem, was
probably a member of Samuel Parker's company.
The plan was for both companies to reach the Molalla camp
simultaneously. The orders were that no shooting was to be done. It was
desirable to send the Klamaths home without bloodshed if possible. The Indians
had scouts observing the approach of the settlers. Despite orders not to shoot,
Joseph Churchill fired at the sentinel on the north side as he was running in
and he fell from his
horse. The horsemen dismounted and leaving their animals in charge of Oliver
Grace, cautiously approached the camp. Prompt as they were, the men on foot were
ahead of them. But now the camp was alarmed. The Klamaths began crossing to the
south side of the river on a footlog. Before they were out of the woods Geer's
men were assailed by a shower of arrows. The firing became general. A drizzling
rain had been falling all day and the underbrush was loaded and dripping,
rendering ineffective the rain-soaked flintlocks of settlers and Klamaths.
James Brown and Elias Cox possessed cap rifles which did most
of the execution on this day. The whites also had two cap duelling pistols. A
Klamath warrior holding a sodden flintlock was busily engaged in cocking and
snapping it at John Warnock, who, armed with a similar weapon, was likewise
trying, though in vain, to despatch the redman. In their eager anxiety to get
the first shot, the two combatants had approached to within a few feet of each
other, oblivious to all about them. Neither seemed to appreciate the humor of
the situation. At this moment Elias Cox came up and taking in the scene at a
glance fired at the Klamath, who dropped his rifle and plunged into the river,
swimming toward the opposite shore. As he pulled himself out of the water and
lay for a moment still, a second shot was fired at him, but he did not flinch.
Sylvester Nicholson came to the fight armed with only a butcher knife tied on
the end of a pole. Many shots were fired at Red Blanket, but he escaped that
During this time the men on the north side were not in the
fight, although close enough to see it. Uncertain what course the Molallas would
pursue, they kept close to their horses. Coosta and his men, observing their
presence, decided to keep out of the fight and their camp was not molested. The
settlers held steadily to their purpose to send the Klamaths out of the country.
Two Klamaths were killed when Red Blanket and his band fled up
the river. Captain Geer gave orders to cease firing, which were instantly
obeyed. The old chief Katka retreated very slowly. After going some fifty yards,
he turned back toward the settlers, approaching within sixty yards and began
shooting arrows so fast that there appeared to be two or three arrows in the air
at one time. Twenty rifles were leveled at him and the old hero fell pierced by as many
The short wintry day was drawing to a close. The settlers
returned to the rendezvous at Warnock's. As the location of the Klamaths was
then unknown, it was feared that they might start homeward on the Klamath trail,
committing depredations as they went. Accordingly those living near the trail
returned home to protect their families. Less than half a hundred remained at
the meeting place. James Brown rode all night, gathering men for the next day,
riding to David Colver's, five miles south of Silverton, and to Paul Darst and
Charles Benson near
That night it snowed. Considerably augmented in numbers, the
settlers proceeded to the scene of the previous day's encounter. Coosta was
questioned. All that he would say was that the Klamaths were gone. At last it
was decided to scout up the stream. In a short distance tracks were discovered
in the new fallen snow. Following these some distance, the Klamath camp was
discovered in the midst of a bit of boggy ground covered with an almost
impenetrable thicket of vine maple and
underbrush. They had chosen a strong position and one, under ordinary
circumstances, easy to defend. The arrival of the settlers was greeted with war
whoops and a shower of arrows, as before. The action was brief but deadly.
Grimly closing in, the settlers returned the fire with deadly execution. The
dusky warriors began to fall and the first was Red Blanket, whose charmed life
had carried him safely through the previous encounter. Dismayed by their losses,
the Klamaths fled toward the mountains.
One of the squaws was now found to be wounded, crying out in
Chinook for mercy. On this the settlers ceased their fire.
The Klamaths this day had ten killed. Their
losses in two days were thirteen killed and one wounded. One
white man was wounded. James Stanley was struck in the breast with an arrow.
Holding it with one hand, he killed the Indian; then for fear it might be
poisoned he deliberately pulled it out despite the pain.
The white men now returned to the Molalla camp. At
Coosta's village, both Molallas and Klamaths were told what was to be expected
of them in the future. The Klamaths were to be permitted three days in
which to bury their dead and take the trail for home. The wife of Red Blanket
asked Jacob Caplinger why the whites were so hard on the Klamaths, while they
did not kill the Molallas, who were just as insulting and mean. He explained
that the Molallas owned this "illihee" but the Klamaths did not belong in the
valley. She said that was "close wawa" and that she "kurntuxed" what he meant,
and would go home and never return. The Molallas probably buried the dead, as
the whole band of Klamaths passed Geer's that night on the way to Jefferson
pass. Before leaving the camp a few admonitions were given to the Molallas. One
was that Crooked Finger was not to enter the house of a settler unless there was
a white man in the house. If he did so, he was to be shot on sight.
Shortly after the return of the settlers to their homes, the
Klamaths, wailing their mournful death chants, departed southward. For a few
days the men of Geer's and Davie's companies watched the trail but the Klamaths
were finally gone. They never returned to the Great Valley. Some of them took
part in the Rogue River wars of the fifties and later were assigned to
reservations, where the tribe is apparently thriving.
Indian Wars were frequent in the Northwest. Another account of
a conflict and, this time, a peaceful resolution can be found as part of T. T.
Geer's Memoirs when
General Joseph Lane
helped make peace during the Rogue Indian Wars in 1853. Other books on this
Uncertain Encounters: Indians and Whites at Peace and War in Southern Oregon, 1820s-1860s by Nathan Douthit
This study offers a complex view of
Indian-white relations. Rather than focus on well-documented incidents of conflict and federal Indian
policy, Douthit directs attention
to peaceful interactions as well. He shows that in the years
leading up to the Rogue River War, Indians and whites interacted
with uncertainty, alternating between acts of friendship and
hostility. "Uncertain Encounters" begins with an investigation
of the Hudson's Bay Company's fur-trade relations with southern
Oregon Indians. It turns to exploration of the region by white
Americans and to early encounters between Indians and white
miners and settlers. It reexamines the Rogue River War,
providing the first detailed picture of the war's impact on the Indian population. Finally, it describes
the removal of Indians to the Siletz and Grand Ronde
reservations as told in Indian oral
narratives as well as white accounts. As a major aspect of the
story, Douthit highlights the development of a little-known
middle ground of relationships between Indian women and white
The Rogue River Indian War and Its Aftermath, 1850-1980
by E. A. Schwartz
|If you are interested in early
Oregon History, the following books help illustrate many of the chapters
written in T. T. Geer's book.
Oregon Indian Wars
These two fictionalized accounts of the Nez Perce War are also
interesting in their own right:
Footnotes And Authorities
As to the origin of the name
Pudding River there is much confusion. One account states that the term was
bestowed by a party of hunters that consumed a blood pudding while camped on
the stream. J. Q. Thornton thought the name was corrupted from Put-in. So far
as ascertained, the name was first used by Alexander Henry, the younger, who
wrote in his journal, January 21, 1814: "At 11 A. M. we passed a small stream
on our left called by our people, 'Pudding River.' " See Leslie M. Scott,
"History of the Oregon Country," I. 283. Thornton "Oregon and California," I.
285. The authorities are collected in Carey, Hilt. Ore. 48.
John Minto. Minto Pass, Ore.
Hist. Quar. IV. 242.
Victor, "Early Indian Wars,"
S. A. Clark in Ore. Hist.
Soc. Scrapbook XL. 34.
R. C. Geer.
G. W. Hunt, "A History of
the Hunt Family," 34. Mr. Hunt was a member of Geer's company.
Those in the party were John
Warnock, Richard Miller, Mitchell Whitlock, James Brown, John Stanton, M. W.
Wilkins, William Langlois, Lauren Thomas and others. Brown MS., Oregonian,
April 3, 1877.
And Coosa was not wrong in
his atdtude, as the Indian title to this part of the country was not
extinguished until a number of years later.
In the cabin at the time
were Mrs. Mitchell Whitlock and baby, Dick Thomas, then a boy, Mrs. Miller and
two daughters, Sarah and Amelia, and a son, Thomas Miller. L. S. Thomas MS.,
A "big chief" or even "a man
of God;" a term with many shades of meaning.
L. S. Thomas MS.
Bancroft, Hist. Or. I. 747.
This reference to the Patterson family is erroneous. At the time John
Patterson was unmarried. His marriage took place June 2, 1853. Don. Cer. No.
5133. At this time he was away in the Cayuse war, in Captain Maxon's 4th
company. Bancroft, Hist. Ore. I. 683. His cabin was but a few hundred yards
south of Miller's on the south slope of the hill between Miller cemetery and
the Abiqua, and at this time was occupied by the family of Samuel Allen, who
arrived on the Abiqua in October, 1847. Louisa Allen MS. 3.
"In looking back over this
affair I am fully persuaded that the promptness of the whites saved the
settlers from a bloody Indian war, for there was a council held, at which I
was present, and it was not the intention to harm the Indians but to surround
them and escort them out of the country." A History of the Hunt Family, 34;
Oregonian, March 12, 1877.
L. S. Thomas MS.; Oregonian,
March 20, 1877, and September 6, 1885.
Of this incident Mrs. John
Barger said: "One old Indian, nearly blind, came up from the brush toward the
whites and said, 'Don't bother old man. He is too old to hurt anyone!' Coming
up close, he up and shot Stanley with an arrow. They were afraid it was
poisoned. A man named Jones shot the old Indian." Barger MS. This is
erroneous, as Stanley was wounded in the second day's fight. Jones has not
Brown MS. These men were in
the second day's fight.
The site of this day's fight
is on the donation land claim of James Murray, about nine miles east of
Silverton, and near the Murray dwelling house.
Some of the women had taken
part in the fight, using weapons with as great skill and dexterity as the men.
Oregonian, September 6, 1885.
Geer's account says nine.
Sergeant King told me in
this skirmish twelve Indians were killed and one wounded. Two squaws, who were
found fighting with the Indians, were badly wounded and one of them diet that
night." A History of the Hunt Family, 36.
As the settlers were
returning, they found a papoose hidden under a log, probably placed there by
one of the squaws in the fight. Barger MS.
Geer says twenty-four hours.
of Oregon." See Morris, authorship of the Bancroft Histories, Oregon
Historical Quarterly, IV. 301, and "The Early Indian
Wars of Oregon", Salem, 1894, 224. In these, while fully admitting ample
justification for chastizing the Indians, she has unjustly belittled the
actions of the settlers. Bancroft calls the war "a sad blunder," because an
Indian woman was wounded . . . John Warnock said that some of the Klamath
women fought side by side with the men and were quite as proficient fighters.
Moreover, on account of the dense underbrush, it was impossible to distinguish
the bucks from the squaws. Warnock was a veteran of the British navy, whose
ship had been wrecked off the coast of Mexico. Yet we are asked by Mrs. Victor
to believe that he was engaged in a "disgraceful" proceeding wherein women
After this time, it is said,
the sullen chief transferred his insolent activities to Clackamas county,
where he was shot by Fred McCormick for entering the house of a settler
without permission. The story is to be seriously doubted. See ante, P.3. A
thorough search has been made to locate the muster rolls of the home guard
companies, without avail. It may be that since they were volunteers no record
was kept. Geer has given the personnel of his company that were at the fight.
Some probable members of Richard Miller's coxnpany were
William Elliot, Samuel Allen, Thomas G. Allen, John Patterson, Mitchel
Whitlock, John Warnock, James Brown, William Langlois, Lauren Thomas, William
Allen Jack, Richard Pollard, But Patterson, Pollard, and Jack were serving in
the Cayuse war. "All the companies were considerably depleted by the call for
the Cayuse War." Oregonian, April 3, 1877.
Minto gives the names of Jonas Davis
and J. Wilson as serving in the two days' fights. Oregonian, March 20, 1877.
Jonas Davis might have been Allen Jones Davie.
Warnock adds the names
of John Stanton and M. Wilkins.
Oregonian, April 5, 1877. Stanton afterwards settled in the Silverton country.
Wilkins probably came to Oregon in 1847 with Samuel Allen.
Besides Samuel Parker, the only members of his company known
to have been at the fights were Jacob Caplinger, Jarres Stanley and probably
the Shrums. But the Shrums lived several miles from Silverton and might have
belonged to Davie's company from the Santiam. Stanley lived a few miles east
of Salem. Oregonian, March 12, 1877.
Geer's list of participants may be found in Victor, "Early
Indian Wars in Oregon," 224, wherein the author states that nine were killed
besides the wounded.
Frances Fuller Victor was the author of two books describing
the Abiqua fight. These are
She also states (Bancroft, Hist. Ore. I. 747): "The real
marauders escaped or were never present and the Indians attacked were their
wives, chfldren and a few guards left with the camp." Yet Katka and Red
Blanket were killed. Is it Possible that two chiefs were left to stand guard
in the camp of women and children?
Mrs. Victor's account in her "Early Indian Wars in Oregon"
is evidently taken from Bancroft, as the two in narrative, tone and
phraseology are remarkably alike, a sirnilarity that can hardly be called
accidental. She states "that the settlers were ashamed of their easy victory,"
but quotes no one to that effect. Possibly the inference was drawn from "the
sad blunder" of Bancroft. Minto's account is probably the basis of the
Bancroft and Victor accounts. Who were his informants cannot be stated with
certainty, but were probably Ceer, Wilburn King, Ceorge W. Hunt and Jumcs
Brown. See Oregonian, March 12, 1877; Bancroft, Hist. Ore. I. 749, cites
Minto's Early Days MS.
In 1877 a controversy was started in the newspapers over the
battle of the Abiqua, which had the result, finally, of clarifying "the
somewhat murky atmosphere that long hunt over that affair. It was asserted
that there was never such a fight. Bancroft, Hist. Ore. I. 747 -9; Oregonian,
March 2, 1877. To answer this charge, Minto wrote his account. Whereupon
Senator Nesmith, who always took immediate exception to any statement made by
Minto, entered the controversy. He said he had never heard of it and never
read of it before seeing Minto's account. "I would like to see the man who had
counted the dead Indians." Having summarily disposed of the matter thus, he
proceeds artlessly to relate his own heroic part in the Cockstock affair.
Oregonian, March 15, 1877. A. F. Johnson, in the Oregonian March ??., 1877,
also endeavored to belittle the action of the settlers at the Abiqua. As a
result of the controversy the facts were fully brought out, as stated in the
Recently a grandson of Senator Nesmith has attempted to
maintain the attitude of his illustrious ancestor. He states: "It was on the
Abiqua that a skirmish of the Cayuse war was alleged to have been fought in
March, 1846, and some noncombatant Indians killed," citing the letters of
Minto, Nesmith and Johnson, and continues: "It is apparent from reading the
above newspaper articles that the battle WM neither bloody nor important, even
if it was actually fought." Oregon Hist. Quart. XXVI. 311. It is to be hoped
that the other portions of the article represent more thorough research than
the part relating to the Abiqua.
James Brown and Mitchell Whitlock gave an account of the
battle to J. M. Brown on the same day and in each other's presence . . . They
stated unequivocally that they had seen in the two days' fight thirteen
Klamaths slain and the wounded squaw, but were unable to state whether she had
subsequently died. J. M. Brown of Silverton, whose unerring memory of early
times was the wonder of his neighbors, related to the author the statements of
his father and Mr. Whitlock, which have just been given. The three accounts of
Warnock, Brown-Whitlock and Geer agree in all essential particulars and have
been made the basis of this chapter.
The names of those present, as far as it has been able to
ascertain, are as follows, taken for the most part from R. C. Geer's account:
Daniel Waldo, William Parker, Joseph Churchill, Allen J. Davie, James Harpole,
Wilburn King, James Brown, James Stanley, S. D. Maxon, L. A. Bird, Israel
Show, Robert Show, M. Wilkins, King Hibbard, William Brisbane, Miles
Winchester, Porter Cilliam, William Howell, Thomas E. Howell, Ceorge W.
Howell, William Hendricks, William Langlois, Leonard Eoff, Leander Davis, G.
W. Hunt, James Williams, John Warnock, J. W. Shrum, Thomas Shrum, Elias Cox,
William Harpole, Samuel Allen, Cyrus Smith, T. B. Allen, Henry Shrum, Samuel
Parker, John Stanton, Jacob Capliner, Paul Darst, Charles Benson, Lauren
Thomas, Mitchell Whitlock, David Culver, John Barger, Jonas Davis, Montgomery
Barger, J. Wilson, Jonathan E. Center and Wm. Elliott.
Samuel A. CIark, author of "Pioneer Days of Oregon History,"
also wrote an account of the battle of the Abiqua which was printed in the
Oregonian September 6, 1885. He calls it a "story never before told." In it he
relates that his information was obtained from Mrs. J. Hutchins, a daughter of
Coosta, the Molalla chief. Clark, with Mrs. Victor, places the settlers'
rendezvous at Miller's, which is erroneous. He also states that, due to the
excitement scattered through the settlements, "they came in families and
squads. Mothers with their children . . . " One reference to the battle claims
the rendezvous was at Samuel Allen's. But Allen had no cabin at that time and
was occupying that of John Patterson.
The truth of the matter would appear to be that while the
rendezvous was at Warnock's, the intense excitement of three days, with
frequent comings and goings of the settlers at the cabins of Richard Miller,
John Patterson and John Warnock, all within a mile or so of each other and
none more than a mile from Coosta's village, has led to this confusion.