So I’m sitting here this morning trying to think of something to post instead of the following, but… but I do think it is important to tell the whole story and not edit the ugly parts, as much as I want to on this bright and sunny day. So… here it is.
The more I think about it (and read the available info), the more I have to admit that the whites were right about one thing. The natives did need protection. The isolation of Humboldt County offered a convenient haven for “unscrupulous whites”, who felt free to act with impunity. As late as 1857 the county supervisors were still trying to get a jail built and the folks in Orleans were using a tree to hold their prisoners.
Humboldt Times, October 25, 1856-Orleans Jail–Quote from the Sluice Box, describing the Orleans Jail: “Erected in 1232, built of live oak—a large oak tree with a staple and chain attached…. “
The North Coast was a good place to be if you were a bad guy. The Natives weren’t always the only ones targeted by these thugs, but those on the reservations were easy to find and vulnerable. Nobody cared much if did whatever you wanted (or at least they didn’t stop you) and if the Natives resisted, you could simply kill them. And unfortunately, as the following shows, the reservation didn’t necessarily offer the protection promised to the Natives by the government… I’ve used excerpts of this article before, but the whole thing gives you a better picture of the white men involved.
[As an aside, some of my husband’s ancestors are from Kapel…. This could be his great-grandmother who was stabbed. Also note that in the second article, the rape of the two little girls isn’t even mentioned. ]
Humboldt Times, February 28, 1857-Bad Whites (written Feb. 23)-Abuse of the Indians—We have received a communication… Young’s Ferry, Klamath River, under the date of the 23rd, giving the particulars of outrages committed on the Indians—men and women—below that place and within the Reservation by two white men. He says they “went to an Indian Ranch, opposite Capell, and attempted to commit an outrage on a young squaw, which being resisted by the mother of the girl, one of them stabbed the old women twice in the breast, wounding her it is suppose mortally. The brave fellows then took the young girl and another, and forced them to remain with them all night in one of the houses. Lieut. Rundell sent word immediately to Mr. Patterson, the Superintendent of the Reservation—within whose boundaries this outrage was perpetrated—and yesterday Mr. Patterson came up. They still remained at the ranch, bullying and abusing the Indians, and Patterson came on in pursuit of a Justice, that he might get out a warrant for their arrest. He had scarcely arrived here before an Indian came up with a note from Lieut. Rundell, stating that since Paterson left, they had knocked down and nearly beat to death an Indian named Tom—P. Left this morning to go to Orleans, that being the nearest place at which he can procure a warrant. He will probably get back tomorrow or the next day, and meanwhile the miscreants can go on, it appears, with their outrageous work with perfect impunity.
This is a specimen of some of the abuses heaped upon the Indians by vicious and depraved white men, and as much as we may regret it, for the honor of our own race, for humanity’s sake, and for every consideration of justice, such scenes will continue to be repeated as long as the Indians are suffered to remain in convenient proximity to the whites.- W e do not wish by this, however, to excuse or exonerate the perpetrators of such outrages a particle; they should be punished severely. They offend not only against the Indians, but against the white settlers, in jeopardizing the peace of the frontier, and the lives of innocent white men and perhaps women and children. We have not very exalted opinion of these Indians, but such outrageous conduct towards the lowest brutes should not be tolerated by enlightened people; it would be a reproach to ourselves not to denounce and reprobate it.
Humboldt Times, February 28, 1857-Bad Whites (written Feb. 24)-Young’s Ferry: Editor, I wrote you a few days ago concerning the movements of a couple of things, named Lewis and Lawson, who had stabbed a squaw and brutally beat another Indian on the Reservation. They next day,(yesterday), they came up to the house of Capt. Young, flourished their weapons about, stated their readiness to cut, shoot, or fight any way, and boasted that they could and would clean out any one that did not like their proceedings. As Capt. Young has expressed his abhorrence of their conduct, as had also all the rest of the people around him, they no doubt intended to provoke him to make some demonstration, that they might have an opportunity to take vengeance on him. Lawson, particularly, followed him round nearly all the forenoon, making remarks of the above kind. At last Young retired to another house and they went and sat down in his bar-room. After a little, they bought some articles and Lawson gave the cook a piece of money to pay for it, and while the cook was in the act of handing him the change, without saying a word, Lawson drew his pistol and fired at him, the ball passing between the arm and side and filling his bare arm with power. The cook ran and informed Capt. Y. who immediately came in and quietly told Lawson that he could not and would not have any more performance of that kind, and that he must for the future behave civil there, and moreover, that he must not follow him around any more; if he did, it would be at his peril, as he would stand it no longer, but would show him if he again molested him. As he turned to go away, Lawson got up and followed him and Young turned and told him to stop and not follow him any further; but instead of complying, he jumped forward a step and put his hand behind him on his pistol—the next instant Young had drawn his own and shot him, the ball entering near the lower part of the lungs and passing out at the back. He was conveyed to a bed and Dr. O’Keefe, from the barracks, came and pronounced his wound mortal, and at eight o’clock this morning he died in great agony, both mental and bodily. During the last few hours of his life, he expressed great regret for his past conduct and exonerated Capt. Young from all blame, saying that he alone was in fault. Lewis was this evening arrested by Sheriff Hold, and will be conveyed to Orleans for Trial. It is to be hoped, for the welfare of the community, that he will be put where he will be of some use a few years to come.
-Lawson and Lewis are the individuals referred to in an editorial , last week… There is no doubt but Lawson… provoked the hard fate that befell him. Capt. Young, instead of being a quarrelsome man, is just the reverse and would submit to much before resorting to extreme measures. The death of Lawson should be a warning to all of his class and it is to be hoped that his companion, Lewis, will be properly dealt with. —