James Brown was a person of interest during the inquest called to investigate Lucy Romero’s murder .
Note: many of the Prestons believed that Lucy was murdered because she witnessed the Indian Island massacre and could implicate the killers. This is unlikely, though, as she was killed two years after the massacre.
During the inquest, witnesses recounted conversations they had with Brown, though Brown himself was never called to testify. One said Brown thought it would be “better for the County if all the Indians were all killed, squaws and all.” Another witness, added, though, that he heard “Mr. Brown say… that he (Brown) would not kill any person’s squaw or little Indian” [Inquest record investigating the death of Lucy Romero, Jan 1862].
So…? So James Brown was one of the few men publically implicated in the Indian Island massacre (argh, I can’t find my source right now, but am pretty sure historians Jerry Rohde and Susie Van Kirk will back me up on this one). And many of the women that survived the massacre on Indian Island were “squaws” of white men. Lucy Romero, Sarah McQuire’s mother (Sarah’s father was white), Matilda Spears, Nancy Hitchcock, Josephine Beach, Hatteway’s squaw…
Perhaps even the monsters that slaughtered so many on the Island had some sense of honor and intentionally spared the women and children that ‘belonged” to their friends and neighbors (Brown was neighbors or had business dealings with the Hitchcock, Spears and Beach–he also owned property near Hatteway and Romero and would likely have known them).
Mad River Billy was a favorite among the settlers, and he, too, survived. You don’t steal another man’s horse, you don’t shoot his squaw or “pet” Indian…
The following is a list of names and records indicating massacre survivors, though many of the records describe that person as “the only survivor”… If others can add info or other names, it would be appreciated.
1. Lucy Romero (Carrie/Caroline (Lack) Wright & Annie Preston/Simonin/Vick; Lucy was also pregnant with her son, Charles Muhlberg)
Carrie’s Wright’s mother “saved herself and her children by hiding in a large hogshead, or barrel, until daylight, then making her way to her home near Uniontown…” Arcata Union 9 Jan 1919]
2. Mother of Sarah McQuire/Wanveer
Mother of Sarah McGuire was eight months pregnant at the time of the massacre and swam the bay to escape the perpetrators. [Personal interview w/ Evelyn H (Sarah’s granddaughter), Feb, 2006 & reconfirmed July 2009]
3. Matilda Spears (+ George Spears)
Per Dan Spears Obit, April 1958” “His mother was one of two children who escaped the great massacre on Indian Island on Humboldt Bay in 1860. She was found under a log after the slaughter.” ( SBF Papers, vol. 68:195)
4. Nancy Hitchcock (& Billy Sykes + Andrew Hitchcock)
“Cousins Matilda and Nancy were up tending Nancy’s two year old son Stephen Hitchcock, who was ill… they gathered up their children (George Spear, William Sykes, Andrew Hitchcock) and ran to hide on the west side of the island. After the militia left, they returned.. and found seven children. They gathered the children together, put them in the only remaining canoe and swam the canoe across the bay to Freshwater Creek and then walked to Matilda’s husbands homestead in Freshwater…. later …. .soldiers found another child had survived under his dead mother. This child was Jerry James”. [Dept of the Interior Letter to Jan Silva, 13 March 1987; info given to dept by William James Sykes]
5. Josephine Beech
“Mrs. Beech… mercifully escaping death only because she was in a canoe, headed for the island when the killings took place” [Town and County, G.R. Robbins, 8 July 1935]. Huh? This account doesn’t make much sense to me, but Josephine did survive.
6. Hatteway’s Squaw and two others “belonging to the island”
“When we (Gunther and Capt. Moore) came to the Island, we found Hatteway’s squaw, who lived on the Peninsula… There was no one there but three squaws, Hatteway’s and two belonging to the Island.” [From Genocide in Northwestern California, by Jack Norton—pg. 86-88, quoting Andrew M. Genzoli and Wallace E. Martin, Redwood Cavalcade… Pioneer Life, Times (Eureka, California Schooner Features, 1968, pp. 11-13]
7. Mad River Billy
“On February 25, 1860 the most wanton slaughter of friendly Indians occurred on Indian Island opposite Eureka. Mad River Bill, whose family were among the murdered, jumped into the bay and swam across to Eureka, and walked around the bay, arriving at the Nixon ranch just after my grandmother had gotten up. He knocked and as she opened the door fell through in a faint. She brought him to and his first words upon regaining consciousness were, ‘Bad white men. He murder my mother, my brothers, sisters and all my children [Harry Nixon’s History of Arcata, Chapter 7]
8. Jerry James
“Jerry James, the only survivor of the Indian massacre on Gunther’s Island, died Sunday morning at his home at Bucksport. James, who was 71 years of age, was the only Indian to live through the massacre. The morning following the slaughter, he was found in his dead mother’s arms.” [Ferndale Enterprise 5 April 1929]
9. Jenny Liscom
“David Porter Worth… married Jennie Liscom, a survivor of the Indian Island Massacre.” [Dow’s North of Mad River]
10. “Jennie Sands,
95 year old Indian woman, died early this morning at her home in Bucksport. Deceased was born on Indian Island and lived there at the time of the “Indian massacre.” Her only surviving relative is a nephew, Jerry James.” ( Humboldt Standard 28 July 1928)
11. May Burton
“…May Burton, an Indian girl who was the only survivor of the historic Indian Massacre on the island. A man named Burton investigated the mass murder the following day and found the infant girl clasped tightly in her dead mother’s arms. Burton took the child home and raised her as his own.” [Humboldt Times of 2 June 1963]
12. Mad River Bob:
“It is reported that he was one of the two last surviving Indians who escaped from the great Indian massacre, which occurred on Indian Island….” 30 April 1910 obit in Fountain, vol. 34:481. See also obit for Leon Bob in 6 May 1910 Humboldt Times.
13. Indication of Others…
Obit of Elizabeth Ann West, wife of “Captain” William West in “When the massacre took place on Gunther’s Island Indians wounded and bleeding made their way to the West home where their wounds were treated as best the rude means at hand would allow. There the Indians knew that they were safe and all that could made their way to the shelter of the West home did so.”[Humboldt Times, 24 January 1911]