In Memory of an Indian boy

Shasta Cemetery

In the Inquest Record, Lucy is quoted as expressing fear over the well-being of her children.  She had good reason.

During the “Indian Wars” of the 1850s and 1860s in Humboldt County, Indian children were quite vulnerable.  Many were purchased or taken as pets or servants, but even then, they weren’t fully protected.

1861, June 22, Humboldt Times-Outrageous—An Indian boy, in the service of Mr. Swain, Elk river, aged about fifteen years, was murdered while at work in the garden of his employer on Wednesday.  He was shot through the body with a rifle ball and died almost instantly.  The boy had lived with Mr. Swain, we are told, for several years; indeed, had been brought up by him almost from infancy, and is said by the neighbors to have been a good servant and an unoffensive lad.   Although this deed was committed in the daytime and but a short distance from the house, it is not known who was the perpetrator; but whoever it was we trust he may be known and have justice meted out to him.  A man who will kill an Indian boy in this manner, without adequate cause, but merely because he belongs to that race of human beings, is not exalted above the savage.  It is cowardly acts like this that casts a foul stain upon the reputation of this county, and paralyzes the efforts of those who endeavor to secure aid from Government to protect the lives and property of her citizens from the attacks of hostile bands in the mountains.

There is no way to know for certain if Henry, listed in the 1860 Census with Albert Swain (below), is the boy described above.  Henry was estimated as older, but who knows… I do know I have never seen a headstone dedicated to an Indian child in Humboldt County like the one purchased for the “Faithful Indian Boy John” (photo above).

 

1860 Census, Bucksport, Humboldt.
 
 
 
The following is a list of registered Indian Indentures filed in Humboldt County from 1860-1863.
The original documents have never been discovered, though this isn’t from a lack of effort on the part of local historians (myself included).  I gratefully credit Jack Norton, Sr., author of Genocide in Northwest California,  for the list .
 
 
Please note the last entry.  Carrie, indentured to Sarah Bowles in 1863, was Lucy’s orphaned daughter.
 
                  ( Sorry I can’t seem to fix the formatting glitch.  The age is listed slightly above the gender in the list)
Name Date Indian Sex Age Notes
Guthree, A.P 8/1860 Rolly f

12

 
Shaw, L Louis   Jane f

9

 
Shaw, L Louis   Biddy f

6

 
Roberts, John J   Sarah f

5

 
Wiley, Austin   Smoky m

8

 
Sweasey, Jane 09/1860 Mary f

7

 
Axton, Henry   Nelly f

7

 
Singley, N.   Dick m

12

 
Singley, N.   Rolly f

12

 
Singley, N.   Charley m

10

 
Singley, N.   Sherlotte f

8

 
Singley, N.   Mary f

6

 
Singley, N.   Perry m

3

 
Swain, Albert 10/1860 Indian Henry m

20

 
Swain, Albert   Squaw Nellie f

25

 
Roberts, William   Oconsy f

15

 
Roberts, William   Lewis m

18

 
Chevret, Leon   George  m

8

Bought 18 months previously by L.C. from C. Clarke of Mattole for $30
Duff, Margaret   Mary f

20

 
Roberts, William   Jack m

17

 
Rollins, A.S. 11/1860 Topsey f

7

 
Adams, Barry 12/1860 Peter Adams m

10

 
Ryan, C.J.   Nelly f

9

 
           
Rider, Charles 01/1861 Toney f

6

Given by Wife of Coonskin
Hauck, Peter   Charley  m

14

 
Hauck, Peter   Rose (wife) f

15

 
Fish, Lyman   Joe M. m

23

 
Fish, Lyman   Ella (wife) f

23

 
Phillips, Wm. Eaton   Dave m

6

 
Ryan, Pierre H.   Lucy f

8

 
McDonald, Wm.   Kate f

6

 
Danskin, G   Ginney f

27

 
Danskin, G   Jim (son) m

11

 
Danskin, G   Sarah (dau) f

9

 
Danskin, G   Anna f    
Chevret, Leon   Bob m

21

 
Chevret, Leon   Mary (wife) f

22

 
Chevret, Leon   Kitty (dau) f

4

 
Chevret, Leon   Mad River Billy m

18

 
Chevret, Leon   Lucy (wife) f

16

 
Preston, J.C.   John m

25

 
Preston, J.C.   Jane (wife) f

20

 
Preston, J.C.   George (cousin) m

4

 
Kinsey, C.   Julie f

7

 
Jenkins, David   Dick m

17

 
Jenkins, David   Dan m

14

 
Titlow, T.J.   Jack m

26

 
Titlow, T.J.   Malinda f

27

 
Titlow, T.J.   Frank (son) m

3

 
Titlow, T.J.   Jane (Jack’s mo) f

40

 
Titlow, T.J.   Charley  m

25

 
Titlow, T.J.   Emma (wife) f

23

 
James, Henry F.   Blue coat Mowwena m

50

 
James, Henry F.   Bill (son) m

24

 
James, Henry F.   Fanny (wife of Bill) f

19

 
James, Henry F.   Bony (son) m

19

 
James, Henry F.   Teeny (dau) f

11

 
Duncan, Ruben   Sorenose Jack m

25

 
Whaley, John   Mary Kitty f

15

 
Preston, A.M.   Sam m

13

 
Preston, A.M.   Jasper m

15

 
Jacoby, A.J.   Mary f

12

Taken from Big Bar 05.1854 and bound under law of 1850; SVK says that Mary ran away
Phillips, Rufus   Tom m

11

 
Martin, Wm. C   Nelly f

15

 
Hobbs, Isaac 02/1861 Rachael f

9

Bought from her parents
Phillips, Wm. Eaton   Dick m

18

 
Phillips, Wm. Eaton   Kitty (wife) f

25

 
Nixon, Wm.   Tom m

19

 
Nixon, Wm.   Mary (wife) f

16

 
Bull, John C.   Charley  m

21

 
Biddings, John A.   William m

15

 
Blum, R.   Tom m

11

Bought off his mother at Coaski several years since
Davis, J.P. 03/1861 Charley  m

11

 
Huestis, A.J.   Sylvia f

14

 
Kneeland, J.A. 04/1861 Jasper m

15

 
Herrick, Rufus F.   Little John m

24

 
Herrick, Rufus F.   Blanch (wife) f

22

 
Herrick, Rufus F.   Peter (son) m

2

 
Daniels, H.S. 07/1861 Bob m

13

 
Ready, Daniel   Jake m

7

 
Clark, J.   Sam Houston m

5

Prisoner of war
UNK   Kjalma m

7

 
Tewskbury, J.D. 08/1861 Moses m

14

 
Tewskbury, J.D.   Belsabub m

12

 
Tewskbury, J.D.   Sarah f

10

 
Turner, A.G.   Minne Ha Ha f

12

Prisoner of war
Tewskbury, J.D.   Aaron m

8

 
Wright, Lucian 09/1861 Phillis f

7

 
UNK   Molly f

9

Prisoner of war
Fruit, James H. 10/1861 Nellie Lincoln f

17

 
Donally, Peter   George Washington Donally m

12

mentioned in Humboldt Times
Dupern, Norman 11/1861 Milly f

10

Prisoner of war
Connor, Francis   Oneta f

8

 
Abels, Mrs. E.   Malinda f

8

 
Keiffer,Jacob   Bob m

20

 
Keiffer,Jacob   Ellen (wife) f

20

 
Hagans, Wm. B.   Charles m

7

Prisoner of war
Hagans, Wm. B.   Kate f

10

Purchase from parents
Moore, John   Coeness m

13

 
Moore, John   Kitty f

14

 
Ellery, Wm. 01/1862 Franke m

25

 
Ellery, Wm.   David m

23

 
UNK 03/1862 Hank Smith m

7

Prisoner of war
Hadley, A.A. 04/1862 Peter m

11

 
Hadley, A.A.   Patrick m

8

 
Cassans, F 05/1862 Charles m

8

 
Cassans, F   Lincoln m

5

 
Reed, W.I. 06/1862 Blackhawk m

9

Prisoner of war
Bowles, Anthony   Peter m

4

 
Gowanlock, Robert 07/1862 Fred m

7

 
Myers, J.D. 08/1862 Peter m

5

 
Hopkins, S.F. 09/1862 Twilight f

7

Prisoner of war
Bowles, Sara H. 11/1863 Carrie f

7

 
           
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20 Responses to In Memory of an Indian boy

  1. skippy says:

    This is a fascinating list for many reasons. This information is rarely seen. It also has many implications.

    Over 100 native children placed with (presumably) white families during the height of the ‘Indian Wars’? Why? What happened to their parents? Killed? Displaced or taken prisoner for relocation? Were these children orphaned… or kidnapped? The word indenture can mean many things lying somewhere between adoption and servitude.

    Where are those records?

    Given this history, no wonder our local tribes have been making great efforts to manage their own adoptions and foster care systems, and all agencies adhering to the 1978 Federal ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act; passed in response to the alarmingly high number of Indian children removed from their homes by public and private agencies) guidelines.

    Thank you Lynette, and especially to Jack Norton, (my dear professor) for this information brought to light.

    • Lynette M says:

      Hi,
      I would like to believe that many on that list indentured Indians as a way to save them from the harsh conditions of the reservations, where food was scarce and the care negligent to down right cruel. Frankly many were slave labor camps. Those who were indentured to local whites could stay.

      You will notice many of the names are familiar (you’ll recognize some from Lucy’s inquest–and from the Daby’s Ferry story I’ll post soon).

  2. I can’t believe I never knew this happened in California. Being a California native myself it is very disturbing. My own daughter is 11 and when I look at this list it just makes me cringe.
    I am also curious about just how they all became indentured…adoption is one thing…servitude another.

    The headstone is absolutely beautiful. Such a solid, tangible piece of history. If you have traveled to the ghost town of Bodie, I remember as a child the beautiful headstones there.

    Thank you so much.

    • Lynette M says:

      I am so glad you found this blog of value.
      I, too, grew up in California and knew nothing of this history until a few years ago. California has always seemed to pride itself on progressive values but that wasn’t always the case.
      I don’t know that we can judge the current state by such history, but it shouldn’t remain unknown or forgotten either.

  3. skippy says:

    The woman erecting this marker to ‘Faithful John’ was Phoebe Colburn. Her story is an interesting one in Shasta history.

    “Phoebe is buried in the “colored” section of the Shasta Union Cemetery on the west side of the grounds, surrounded by an impressive wrought-iron fence. Her best friend William Magee is also buried in the Shasta Union Cemetery some distance away.

    Close to her grave is another ornate grave bearing the inscription: “Erected by Phoebe Colburn, to the Memory of the Faithful Indian Boy John, died March 30, 1858, aged 15 years” and pictured here.

    Phoebe Colburn was born around 1818 into slavery in the South. She arrived in Shasta County in the early 1850s as a freed black illiterate slave. By the time of her death in 1876, she had become a shrewd businesswoman and amassed herself a small fortune.

    Because she could not read or write, all of her legal documents were signed with a mark, usually witnessed or notarized by her friend Col. William Magee, who she referred to as her “best friend of all others on Earth.” Over the years, Phoebe purchased, lent or sold many pieces of Shasta County property. Magee was a surveyor who made the first official map of Shasta County.

    Phoebe’s first-known legal transaction took place in 1854 when she purchased a house in Shasta. Her “best friend” William Magee witnessed the execution of the deed. Magee made the house his home while Phoebe worked as his cleaning woman and housekeeper. Phoebe lived in another house at Shasta.

    In 1855, Phoebe held the mortgage on Thomas Freeman’s American Ranch property in Anderson so he could pay the money he owed to the seller, Major Pierson B. Reading. This transaction made her quite probably the first woman to hold a mortgage in Shasta County. The American Ranch was no mere ordinary ranch; it was instrumental in the establishment of the town of Anderson.

    The next place for Phoebe is at the Foot-of-the-Mountain Station beside the Noble Emigrant Trail near Lassen in the early 1860s.

    William “Billy” Smith owned the place and Phoebe worked for him as a cleaning woman and housekeeper. Smith was having a hard time making the stopping place a paying business and was going into debt. Because Phoebe was thrifty and saved her money, Smith borrowed $500 from her. But he could not repay the loan. In 1865, he deeded the 40 acres on which the Foot-of-the-Mountain Station stood, plus 240 more acres to Phoebe. Phoebe continued to operate the stopping place.

    The building included a bar, a gambling hall, and a dance hall on the top story with six bedrooms off to the side. It also included a wraparound 12-foot veranda and a front entrance with two large 8-foot high glass topped doors that opened into an impressive hall. This place was also a wild and rough place. Many gala affairs were held, some lasting as long as a week. When Phoebe sold the place, the new owners quickly set about removing the blood stains in the floor and the bullet holes in the walls and ceilings. In the late 1860s, she sold the house and property and moved back to Shasta. The patents for the land were originally signed by Abraham Lincoln and handed down to Phoebe.

    Phoebe died in Shasta in 1876 and left a sizeable estate. Her estate was valued at $3,000, a sizeable amount, particularly for a black woman and former slave. She left her clothes, valued at $100, to her niece in Mobile, Ala., and directed that the rest of her estate go to her best friend of all others on Earth, William Magee.” (Dottie Smith, Record Searchlight 2010)

    Phoebe seemed like a kind, successful, and hardworking woman who appreciated those good people who helped her along the way.

    It’s a mystery what her relationship was to John or why she dedicated this marker to him. Perhaps she wanted young John to have the faithful respect and dignity he rightfully deserved; perhaps she compassionately understood firsthand the struggles and adversity of others that she witnessed around her.

    • Lynette M says:

      Skippy,
      Thank you so very much for transforming a simple headstone photo into a tribute to such a remarkable woman.

      Your research is amazing and truly appreciated.

  4. skippy says:

    Erecting this grave marker to ‘John’– and her brief biography above– Phoebe Colburn is pictured here.

    • Lynette M says:

      Can’t ever say enough to honor this contribution.

      To Phoebe…

      Thank you, Skippy.

      • skippy says:

        Thank you, Lynette.
        But we must find out more about John.
        Who was he?

        • Lynette M says:

          Sadly this, or a similar event, likely provides our answer. Humboldt wasn’t alone in her attrocities…

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge_Gulch_Massacre

          [The Bridge Gulch Massacre or Hayfork Massacre occurred on April 23, 1852, when more than 150 Wintu people were killed by about 70 American men led by William H. Dixon, the Trinity County sheriff. The massacre was in response to the killing of Colonel John Anderson by the Wintu.

          The Americans tracked the Wintu to a part of the Hayfork Valley known as Bridge Gulch, where they had made camp. They waited until early morning before attacking, to ensure that nobody could escape. When daylight broke they attacked the Wintu, who were just beginning to awaken. More than 150 Wintu people were killed, with only two or three infants surviving the attack.[1] Those Wintu killed in the massacre were not responsible for the death of John Anderson, who was killed by Wintu from a different band. [

          • olmanriver says:

            THE book about the Gulch Creek massacre is Thunder Up the Creek by Claude A. “Herk” Shriner. He put 15 years of research in writing into the book and it is a powerful read.

            • Lynette M says:

              Thanks ‘River.
              That is one book I haven’t seen–oh wait. That is the fictionalized account of the massacre, isn’t it?

  5. skippy says:

    Perhaps we can add more information concerning Phoebe Colburn, John, and her relationship with William Magee.

    Coming across a dubious reference questioning Phoebe acquiring $700 to purchase her first house in Shasta County by suggesting ’she could have been a madam in doing so’, the source offered no validated substantiation. A more likely explanation is at hand.

    Phoebe, despite her illiteracy, is more likely to have been a very smart, shrewd, and successful businesswoman– with the help of her best friend, William Magee.

    From the California State Parks video transcript of ”Still Living: The Pioneer Union Cemetery at Shasta Historic Park:

    ”This particular plot here is of a woman that was very successful as a businesswoman in the pioneer days. Her name was Phoebe Coulbourn. (note: also spelled Colburn)

    She was a dressmaker by trade and she also owned a millinery store where she made hats for the ladies here in the community.

    At one time she owned one of the hotels out in the mountains that the stagecoaches would stop at to change horses and get a meal for all of their passengers. Phoebe Coulbourn continued to run that dress shop and millinery shop for many, many years here in Shasta.

    But her early years were very difficult for her. Phoebe Coulbourn was a black slave that was brought to California during the Gold Rush years by her owner. She worked here in the Shasta area and in the gold fields and was able to actually purchase her freedom very early on and then established her businesses.

    She was very concerned about children here in the community and there were a lot of children here that were orphaned.

    Right next to her grave is her son’s grave, her adopted son, who was a small Wintu Indian boy. His name is John– that’s the only reference that’s on his stone, but she wanted him to be buried right next to her later, and he was.

    John, the ‘faithful Indian Boy,’ was her adopted son. He was of the Wintu tribe. He was given only a short epitaph– and without sharing her last name as his. Yet Phoebe wanted John close to her. Was John indentured?

    This brings us to a small mystery here: John passed in 1858. Phoebe passed in 1876. The above reference indicates ”she wanted him to be buried next to her later, and he was.” Was John reinterred here, where Lynette’s gravestone photograph is taken, from elsewhere?

    What of the relationship between Phoebe and ‘Col.’ William Magee? They became best of friends while in Shasta County. No wonder: they both had similar origins in the South before coming to Shasta County, California.

    Phoebe was born in Alabama before coming West and buying her freedom as a slave. Part of her estate was left to her niece in Mobile, Alabama; the rest left to her ‘best friend, William Magee.’

    Magee, 12 years older than Phoebe, had been a businessman, deputy, and sheriff in Mobile County, Alabama, for nearly 19 years before heading to California during the Gold Rush. He arrived in Shasta in 1850 with the “Colonel” title attached to his name – a title that no one was able to verify. Col. Magee “weighed about 300 pounds and was gruff, full of ego, wore a Panama hat and smoked a big cigar.”

    By 1854, Magee was known to be good friends with Phoebe Colburn. Because Colburn could not read or write, Magee acted as her agent in all her business dealings. In 1854, he lived in a house owned by Colburn in Shasta. Meanwhile, he had another house built in Shasta and moved into it in 1855 with his wife. Magee married three times. Here he lived for almost 40 years until his death in 1892.

    He left behind a sizeable estate– and his lifelong friendship with Phoebe Colburn. Phoebe, passing 16 years earlier at the age of 58, left behind her own moderate estate willed to Magee. She never married nor had children of her own.

    It’s likely these two friends shared common social and business interests, mutually invested in one another, and perhaps, being from similar Southern origins, were more closely ‘birds of a feather flocking together’ in this new land of opportunity, so to speak.

    It’s not known exactly where John fit into the picture between these two. Perhaps he was the son Phoebe never had.

    For the interested reader, Here is a picture of Phoebe’s gravestone marker and her brief biography page.

    Yet another small mystery remains here. The kind reader will notice from the above link that the 1870 census information has Mr. Magee, Phoebe Colburn, and another 14 year old Indian male named William Schmidt listed as living in the same household. Who is this other native child in the household?

    Like John, little is known who William Schmidt was. A person of the same name does show up in the 1885 Shasta County Directory, listed as laborer.

  6. skippy says:

    From Lynette’s gravestone picture dedicated to “The Memory of the Faithful Indian Boy John,” many glimpses emerge lending some clarity to the larger picture at hand.

    John’s marker was erected by John’s adopted mother and Shasta County patron, Phoebe Colburn. As you’ve read above, she became a successful entrepreneur after facing her own adversities and struggle early on. One can’t help viewing Phoebe’s picture and wondering what type of woman she really was. She appears dignified, gracious, and seemingly kind in her simple portrait. Was she?

    From the information below we can begin to see a bit of her true character– and undoubtedly the profound influence her relationship with John had on her later efforts after his passing, intersecting with another individual of Shasta County, Benjamin Young.

    California State Parks Guide Jack Frost explains:

    “Benjamin Young was another African-American that came out to California during the Gold Rush years as a slave and worked very, very hard to obtain his freedom, and then continued to work in the gold fields until he was able to purchase the freedom of his family and bring them out to California also.

    Benjamin Young and Phoebe Coulbourn and Dr. Grotefend in the 1860s pooled their money together and established the first school here in Northern California for black and Indian children.

    That school ran for quite a few years here right next to the regular school. But unfortunately the building itself was destroyed by a snowstorm in the mid-1870s.

    When Dr. Grotefend and Phoebe Coulbourn and some of the other residents at the time went to the county supervisors and said, ‘We need money from the county to rebuild the school for the black and Indian children,’ the Board of County Supervisors said, ‘No we don’t have enough money; integrate the two of them together.’

    So in 1874 we had the first integrated school for all children. Unfortunately, that did not apply, at the time, for the Chinese children. They did not obtain the right to go to the public schools for quite a few years after that.”
    ( California State Parks, video transcript; “Still Living: The Pioneer Union Cemetery at Shasta State Historic Park”, Jack Frost: 2003)

    Phoebe helped establish one of the first schools in California for black and Indian children with Benjamin Young and Dr. Grotefend several years after John’s passing in 1858. Although we know little about John, we can surmise he likely played an important part of Phoebe’s decision providing Shasta County’s less fortunate parents and children the opportunity for education.

    She lived long enough to see the two schools integrate together before passing away two years later in 1876– and requesting her adopted son, John, be buried next to her.

  7. skippy says:

    This was fun to find out about. Information coming to light from simple words on a gravestone. Olmanriver had some great information on stagecoaches recently. I’m hoping he might have some insights with John or Phoebe or anything else?

  8. lindayoga says:

    Thank you for opening my eyes! You are a wonderful woman for bring this to light.

    Linda

  9. Having read this I thought it was rather enlightening.
    I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this article together.
    I once again find myself spending a significant amount of
    time both reading and posting comments. But so what,
    it was still worth it!

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