I was recently in the Humboldt State Library and ran across this photo of Knyphausen (Foss) Geer. Geer fought in the militia against the Indians and was a self professed Indian fighter. Geer would complain, though, that it wasn’t really fighting because the natives generally offered no resistance.
“ They simply hid as they always did. It was always more trouble to trail them down then to fight them… for it would be just a little scrap and then they would run to hide… [6 Oct. 1856-personal account, Knyphausen Geer]. Of course this didn’t stop Geer from tracking down the fleeing natives and killing them.
Geer lived long enough to become an old man and I can’t help feeling the unjustness of that. He took who knows how many lives, and yet I can’t know that he suffered for it. I do wonder, sometimes, if the “bad whites” as they were called, were ever haunted later by their activities during the “Indian war”. Yet… war is war, and maybe they excused their actions that way.
Maybe this is part of why I have such a hard time with Ernie’s comments that the Indian people were doomed from the moment Columbus landed in America. He’s likely right. There was nothing many of the natives could do to alter their fate. The Indian Island massacre demonstrates this all too clearly. Many will argue that an indigenous people can survive an invasion by assimilating into the new culture, but many on the island had done just that. The women worked as domestics in white households, the men helped with farming and fishing. It didn’t make a damn bit of difference. They died anyway.
More info about Geer and the murder of Chas. Hicks…
Humboldt Times, October 25, 1856–Charles Hicks shot by Indians–A man shot by Indians down the coast—… Charles Hicks, of Bear River, … last week, was attacked by five or six Indians… the wrested the rifle from him… the fired it at him, the ball striking his left shoulder blade, and glancing, lodged in the left arm. he was … near a small… Rancheria. The Indians at first appeared very friendly and walked along with him… when one behind him suddenly snatched his gun from him and attempted to shoot him… he defended himself with a pistol and knife, as soon as he could free himself he stared to run and was shot… He succeeded in escaping from them, however, and secreted himself in the brush. The wound weakened him so much that he remained in concealment for some time and was finally discovered by some squaws and taken to a ranch where he was found by his friends… The Indians had a pow wow over him when he was taken in by the squaws as to the disposition to be made of him, but those in favor of sparing him prevailed. The friendly Indians got the rifle taken from Mr. Hicks and brought it into the settlement, supposing perhaps, that this would appease the whites somewhat, but we understand that a party from the river will visit the offenders soon and settle accounts with them. —
Humboldt Times, November 1, 1856–Account of Hicks Shooting-From Eel River–… A difficulty occurred on the head of Bear River last week, which resulted in dangerous wounding of a white man and Indian…. Some white men who lived on the head of the Bear river went out hunting and one of them happened to go near an Indian Rancheria, stopped to talk with them, and was attacked by about fifteen diggers; they commenced by seizing his gun and wresting it from him; they also took his revolver, but he recovered that and shot one of the ring leaders and stabbed him, and then made his escape, but was shot with his own gun as he was running away… he exerted all his strength to get as far away as possible… and when he gave out he crawled into some bushes and secreted himself, and was found the next morning by the Indians, who would have dispatched him then had it not been for the intercession of some squaws, who carried him to the ranch, took care of him for two days, and then wet to his companions and told them that he was there… they had supposed.. that he was dead. The name of the wounded man is Chas. Hicks. This is the first instance, so far as my knowledge extends, of the diggers failing to kill a white man when they attacked hi m treacherously, for they generally wait until the advantages on their side are so great that failing is almost impossible, before they venture to attack a white man. It is hardly necessary to add that the Indians have themselves scarce in that part of the country since this affair
Humboldt Times, November 15, 1856 –Chastising those who shot Hicks –Chastising the Indians who shot Hicks—We understand that since the death of Mr. Hicks, a party was raised on the Eel River, and some went out toward Bear River to chastise some of the scamps that so cowardly attacked and shot him. They came upon a band near Grizzly Bluff, and killed seven of them—they recognized two among the number killed as having belonged to the ranch near which Hicks was wounded, and most likely part of the same that fell upon him at that time.
6 Oct. 1856-personal account Knyphausen Geer: When Hicks was shot, Tewskberry was living in Eagle Prarie with a squaw, Salt River Indians shot Hicks; Holly and Hicks were trappers, Indians wanted Hick’s gun; Al Gilbert, is Olmsteads Vaquero; Al Frederickson; Indian hunt after Hicks was killed, Price Creek, Grizzly Bluff, Holly wanted to attack, Price got Uriah Williams, Brown and others, 11 of us all, no resistance, they simply hid as they always did. It was always more trouble to trail them down then to fight them… for it would be just a litle scrap and then they would run to hide. There was no fight in them.