Mass murder made acquiring slaves easier


Grace Carpenter's depiction of captured Indian children

Grace Carpenter's depiction of captured Indian children

Boy, when I read that title, it seems harsh, but why shouldn’t I call it as it was… The Act for the Government and Protection of Indians was established in California in 1850, and among other provisions it allowed for the legal indenture of Native Americans under many circumstances. 

Indenture is a pretty word for slavery.  In the case of children, the indenture granted the petitioner a certificate,   “authorizing him or her to have the care, custody, control, and earnings of such minor, until he or she obtain the age of majority. Every male Indian shall be deemed to have attained his majority at eighteen, and the female at fifteen years.”

 The ages were extended under many circumstances and adults were often indentured in a similar manner.

Because Indian children considered “quite docile and very good servants, learning to work and to speak English very readily,” they were coveted by families seeking cheap and reliable labor and people would pay to have them  [Humboldt times, Oct 5, 1861] . 

 Human trafficking in Indian children became a popular and lucrative business  in Humboldt County but, because Indian parents were generally “loath to part with their offspring at such ages as would make them most susceptible of training”  [Humboldt Times, March 1, 1860] traders used other means to acquire them.

 One visitor to Humboldt County was appalled to learn that “wild Indians” were being hunted for their children under the pretense of “war”.   Indian traders would intentionally manufacture or elevate conflicts with the local Indian villages and demand protection from the local militias.  Militias would attack the offending “savages” and kidnappers   would  follow the soldiers and  take the children to ready buyers.

  R. C. DRUM, a major with the U. S. Army, noted that many traffickers didn’t even bother manufacturing  conflicts, complaining that they  were “frequently attacking the rancherias, and killing the parents for no other purpose.” than to acquire Indian children.  Drum heard that children could bring up to hundreds of dollars each.

 The Indian Island Massacre   and subsequent expulsion  provided a convenient way to acquire children without the messy murders and kidnappings.  Census records reveal many adults natives at the Klamath reservation, but very few native children between the ages of 6 and 18.     Yet in the towns along Humboldt bay, there were over  ninety Indian children and “half breeds”  living in white households.   A very few mothers of “half-breeds” were allowed to remain with their children.  It looks like many others, such as Julia Robinson, were forced to go to the Klamath, and leave their children, some as young as a year old,  behind [Ann Roberts, 1860 Census Records] .


10 Responses to Mass murder made acquiring slaves easier

  1. Okay I’ll bite. Everything that I choose to talk about anymore seems to be the provocation to verbally beat the crap out of me, but I’ll dive in and give you some “Bullshistory”.

    Back in the late 1940’s early 1950’s there was a mass exodus of people that moved to California from the “poor states”; Missouri Mississippi. Arkansas, and Oklahoma. The people were starving and needed jobs. Sometimes they had spent their last dime to get here. They found jobs working in the timber industry. Some worked in mills and some worked in the woods. They were ideal for workers, because most of them were too uneducated to get work anywhere else. They were hard working and honest people. (If you could set aside the fact that they stole gas, and food out of orchards to get here.)

    The people that owned mills around Laytonville would hire them, and show them a place to build a “house”, usually in the back of the millyard. They were given all of the lumber that wasn’t fit to sell. Lumber that we would kill for today. They were given the cull logs out of the deck for foundations, some just built on gathered rock foundations. Most of the houses started out as one room with a lean-to roof. They had a fifty-five gallon barrel stove in the corner that they could cook on and heat the house by. The next addition was an outdoor privy. They usually dug the poop hole with sticks of dynamite. The first addition to the house would be a bedroom for the parents.

    The houses were built like the old fashioned barn-raising, where after work the hole mill yard would gather and before dark the people would have a place to sleep. They were happy people and treated the “boss” like a much revered elder. Quite often the “Boss” would let somebodies relative stay in one of the houses while he looked for work. At no charge.

    Sometimes the families of these people would move to California and live with their relatives until they could find their own jobs. So these houses were always in a state of flux. If somebody quit or moved to another job he usually left his house behind, and either built a new one, or moved to town with his newfound wealth.

    Nowadays the newcomers show up and read the history of the “Tar-paper shack” housing, and talk about how those poor people were so horribly taken advantage of. Talk about how they were not treated any better than slaves, and how the “lumber barons got rich” they never saw that nine out of ten lumber people went broke because they couldn’t make ends meet while still providing housing for his crew.

    Back in the 1850’s and 1860’s there was a mass exodus of Indian People that moved to Laytonville. They were starving and looking for food. They were good hard working honest people, if you could look over the fact that they stole food from the ranchers garden, and ate their cattle. The ranchers were building a mill, they gave the Indian People lumber to build themselves housing. They gave them a piece of land to build on, and the Indian People readily adapted to work in the mill or in the woods. They put them under “Indenture Act” and took responsibility for them, so nobody could bother them. The Indian people were glad to not be starving, they looked upon the “boss” like a much revered elder.

    Nowadays the newcomers say “oh, the horror, they treated the Indians as slaves.” Granted, some Indians were abused, and not really appreciated. Sadly they didn’t have lumber Barons like we had today, that never took advantage of anybody. Say.. Charles Hurowitz.

  2. Kathy says:

    Sometimes ‘newcomers’ have fresh eyes and can see outside of ‘the way things are done here’.
    History will vary from person to person, block to block but over all our local history is harsh and common and unspoken.

  3. Kym says:


    There are lots of ways at looking at any situation. I appreciate that you keep us from just accepting the view that the whites were bad and the indians were mistreated. The world is a lot more complicated than that.

    When I read the following,
    Mrs s m Cole paid for an Indian boys burial age 12 died of consumption
    apr 1899 boy was from Whiskey Jack Ca (Article #7)
    Mrs SW Cole Paid for burial of 2 yr old Indian Boy who died 4 Aug 1899
    (both are my ancestor–Sarah Cole) I have to wonder, “Did she does this out of kindness or because she killed them from overwork?” And its not impossible that there is a little of both happening.

  4. Oldmanriver says:

    The difficult task of discerning all of what was going on 150 years ago is often muddled by the varying accounts and perspectives of that day. I have been researching the life of Robert White, an early pioneer in the Long Valley. He was an early employee of the Mendocino Reservation and his 1855 letters show him to be a caring man, entreating the Indian superintendent to allow him to take extra men to hunt for food for the Indians, he chased down slavers taking women off the Reservation, you get the impression that he worked hard for the benefit of his charge. He claimed that his hunting hundreds of deer, elk and bear for the tribes had quieted the Indian stealing food from locals for a time.. (note: by his estimate there were 15 tribes and between 4-5,000 Indians at the coastal Reservation 1855)
    With his longtime friend John Simpson, White settled near an existing Cahto Indian encampment, or rancheria, in late ’56 or early ’57 and established a large ranch(o), eventually building the first Hotel and mill, and store. The Kelley House in Mendocino town has a publication giving the history of the Mendocino Reservation. Its author utilized the Robert White letters in the National Archive, and offers the opinion that the White/Simpson enterprise was in effect a personal reservation. Using an account from the Mendocino Oral Histories, Mr. Winn cites accounts of Indians being used as pack animals portering supplies over and back from the coast. The indenture laws allowed many ranchers to get larger workforces. I would like to know more of how he treated his Indian workers at that time. The Indian Rancheria nearest him remained an outpost for friendly Indians, children survivors of the Indian hunts were taken there to be protected. I know that decades later the Simpson/White Rancho and mill employed a number of Indian employees. 1880 Mendocino histories tout Robert White’s genial nature and widespread and deserved popularity, telling a colorful story of his taking revenge on a thief who made off with one of his dogs by shooting the man’s cuckoo clock. A little approved of country justice.

    Mr. White shows up in an SF Bulletin, Jan. 21, 1860:
    “The Indians have again become very troublesome to the settlers of Mendocino county. Mr. White, a resident of Long Valley, informs us that they have become so bad that the settlers have been compelled to organize themselves into a standing army, so to speak, and by taking turns keep their stock and homes under constant guard. For some time precious to this being done, this gentleman alone, Mr. Woodman, had lost 109 head of horses, 74 of which were found dead in a canon not far from his place, and upon the bodies of which were found the Indians were having a good feast. On the 19th of December, the settlers turned out, and attacking the enemy succeeded in killing 32 and taking two prisoners. The United States troops located in that region are represented to be pursuing during all these troubles, a ‘masterly course of inactivity’…..” (Exterminate Them, Trafzer and Hyer, pg 70) The ‘gentleman’ cited, Woodman, was a known slaver whose homestead ranch was in an area that had many Indian rancherias, in his valley and in the valleys immediately to the east. It bears repeating that Jarboe’s Rangers were active in this period, crowding Indians to the west and into Long Valley. Frazier, a local lieutenant in Jarboe’s force stated in his depositions to the California house and senate committee investigating the Mendocino Indian wars, that the Indians raiding the settlers were probably Yukis from the East, and not the local friendly Indians. Frazier also states that there were forty men in the Long Valley Volunteers Company, and mentions children being caught and sold.
    In a March 21st, 1861 SF Bulletin (quoting the Napa Reporter) article:
    “A report has been abroad that some of the settlers in Long Valley, Mendocino county, have kidnapped and disposed of Indian children to parties in the lower valley. Among others, G.H.Woodman, formerly of Napa, has been charge with being implicated in such transactions. Mr. Woodman writes to us that he did, in fact, take some Indian children, of the Rispoiner tribe, from Long Valley to the lower valleys, but that it was done by requet and consent of their relatives. He further state that he took down one of the head men of the tribe, to see for himself the homes provided for the children, and that he returned highly please with their situations. Mr. Woodman’s statement is further corroborated by a certificate signed by 44 of the residents of Long Valley. They deny that there was any kidnapping in the case, and state that the children were taken by the consent of their kindred, and that no stock has been killed on their account, as has been reported. They say that the children are much better off where they are, and that their removal has been beneficial to the community, since if they had remained they must have starved, unless the Indians had killed stock for them to live upon. The certificate closes by sayingthe more of them that can find homes in the lower valley, the less stock the Indians will destroy to feed their children.” (The Destruction of the California Indians, Robert Heizer, pg. 241). On previous link above there is a deposition stating that not all of the names on the petitions for help from the Long Valley ranchers are from Long Valley.
    A letter dated May 31st, 1861 from the Fort Bragg Commander Dillon to the Humboldt Commander Lovell:
    “Captain, I have the honor to report that there are several parties of citizens now engaged in stealing or taking by force Indian children from the districk in which I have been ordered to operate against the Indians.
    I am reliably informed that as many as forty or fifty Indian children have been taken through Long Valley with the last few months and sold both in and out of the county.
    The parties, I am told, at least some of them, make no secret of it; but boldly assert that they will continue to do so and the law cannot reach them. It is pretended I believe that the children are purchased from their parent; but all who know these Indians can fully appreciate the value of this assertion. It is needless to say the this brutal trade is calculated to produce retaliatory depredations on the part of the Indians and exasperate them to a high degree; as how as to interfere materially with our efforts to find and chasten those Indians that deserve punishment, for these men keep the Indians constantly on alert, attacking and chasing them before us and following in our wake for the purpose of obtaining children” (ibid, pg 229).
    Woodman makes the news again in 1862:
    “In 1862, the Alta California reported: “Little more than a hundred miles from San Francisco, in Mendocino County, the practice of Indian stealing is still extensively carried out. Only recently, George H. Woodman was caught near Ukiah with sixteen Indian children, as he was about to take them out of the county for sale. It is well known that a number of men in that region have for years made it their profession to capture and sell unfortunate juveniles, the price ranging from $30 to $150 depending on their quality.” (Harrison, 1966:4)”

    I have commented elsewhere on the prevalence of secessionist sentiments in the Round Valley, and most local historian knows that were a lot of Missourians settling in northern California.. I don’t think any account of this time period is complete without an understanding , as one 1800’s commentator put it, that there was “a lot of Cottondom” here in those early settler days.

  5. Oldmanriver says:

    For a better geographical perspective,I should have said that White and Simpson settled to the northeast of Mendocino/Ft. Bragg in the Cahto Valley on the west side of Long Valley.

  6. Oldmanriver, That is the most unbiased an accurate accounting of the history of Laytonville early days that I’ve ever seen in print. It completely matches my oral history. I’m going to copy it and tape it to my mirror. That way I can say that I’ve finally seen the truth in print.

    This is the kind of accounting that you get when you get past the “Horror”. I believe that many things can still be called to question, the thought that the children would be better off out of the wilderness was quite prevalent. Was Woodman and the Indian parents really in agreement that the kids would be better off? I would think that could be possible. I don’t know. But, as you mentioned, the fact that the “Rangers” were driving the Indian People out of other places and they came to the Long Valley because they felt safer, that was also a story that I’ve heard many times. There was a band of marauding Modoc Indians that were stirring things up, and I understand that was the impetus to round them up and kill them. Back to the horror.

    But I do think, for the most part, that the people of Long Valley wanted to get along with the Indians. Jack Farley and a few others were able to either intimidate people into killing Indians, or some how convince them that it was the best thing to do. I would have loved to have been a fly in the corner back in those days. Maybe I could come to understand what caused, what had been, provably, good people into the mass killings. I’ve never heard that story. I do know that after the killing of the Indian people, that some of the Indian babies were adopted and raised by the same people that had been in on the killings. One by the name of Fox Burns was a Modoc Indian. Old man Burns brought him home. Two Indian children were adopted By Robert Poe. One of the little boys got into the grain supply and ate so much it killed him. The tragedy just never seemed to stop back then.

    The names of all the people involved in the Bloody Run Massacre have not all been revealed either. I always bothered me that it was one of the bloodiest killing in Mendocino County and I have found out very little about it.

  7. […] be fair, George may have been an orphan.   And Chevret may very well have indentured George to keep him from being exiled to the Klamath […]

  8. […] is Hupa and when he came to live with us I was already familiar with the historic practice of kidnapping and indenturing Native American children.  Painfully aware.  Yet I distinctly remember looking at him one night as he stood in a doorway […]

  9. Carrie Clark says:

    does anyone know of the murderer wailacki john wathen

  10. I am a direct descendent of John P Simpson, and it’s always been part of our family lore that he mistreated Native Americans, in a murky way. Glad to have specifics!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: