Killing babies should haunt you forever

Continued from Previous Post

Indian children faced risks when living in white households as servants, but staying in villages with their families was even more dangerous.

The other day  I went wandering (in my car, so not as primitive as it sounds, but still pretty great) onto the Wildcat and into Petrolia  ( a tiny northern California coastal town for those who are unfamiliar), where I found the Pioneer Cemetery.

I really had little thought of posts for my blog until after I’d followed a road,

Road to Petrolia Cemetery

 climbed this beautiful little trail,

Petrolia Cemetery, 2011

and entered the cemetery, which is nestled against an incredible backdrop of trees and meadow.

Petrolia Cemetery

Even then  I just took photos of headstones, ‘cause that damn Wes Keat got me started on it.

Then,  as I was leaving, I spotted Theodore Aldrich’s grave and his name rang way too many bells.

Petrolia 2011

When I came home, I looked him up…  and found him.

 In Heydays in the Mattole, author Neb Roscoe describes the Squaw Creek Massacre.

According to Roscoe, two men (Lambert and Mackey) settle an area near Cooskie Creek, in the Mattole area, and were ambushed by Indians.  Lambert was killed, but Mackey escaped the attack and alerted the Mattole Valley folks.  Because local residents already  believed (because they had claimed it) that Mackey and Lambert had lost cattle to the Indians, they didn’t doubt Massey’s story and quickly formed a posse to “chastise” the local Indians.

The group headed to a known village on Cooskie Creek (without knowing for sure whether or not the inhabitants were involved in the attack on Lambert and Mackey) and attacked. According to the accounts, the adults and older children fled, leaving mothers with young children behind.  The brave white militia decided to let the runners go and focused their violent attention on those left behind.

At one point one of the “posse” contemplated the fate of twin babies, and either John Ray or Theodore Aldrich noted that “Nits make lice”.  There is no dispute, however,  that it was Aldrich that took the twins by their feet and repeated “nits make lice” as he beat their tiny heads against the trunk of a nearby tree.

Later it was speculated that Mackey, and not the Indians, killed Lambert.  But that doesn’t matter in this  story.

Years later, Roscoe continues, old Aldrich lived in a small house on the north bank of the Mattole close to Petrolia—and was haunted by what he’d done to those helpless infants.

In his book, Roscoe recites his Uncle Fred’s recollection of a visit with Aldrich,

… it was a bright, breezy moonlight evening and Aldrich was sitting in his rocking chair on the front porch… The moonlight filtered through the gently swaying branches of the maples trees…  Aldrich was pointing to the ground and muttering over and over, “There, see ‘em twitch, on the ground …see ‘em hop.  See ‘em dancing in the moonlight.”   

May Aldrich, after years in the cold, hard ground, be haunted by his visions still.

Theodore Aldrich, Petrolia Cemetery (2011)

15 Responses to Killing babies should haunt you forever

  1. Kym Kemp says:

    Now that is a story worthy of being told on a dark night around a campfire as well as being told in classrooms for educational purposes. A spooky account of the dark side of our local history.

  2. lindayoga says:

    Again.. very good read! I agree with Kym, about it being a wonderful, spooky campfire story!

    • Lynette M says:

      Yeah, I just wish it wasn’t based on real events….

      • Brenda Salgado says:

        Agree with you Lynette. Not a “wonderful” story, but a TRUE and SAD story, and sadly so many more like in in this country’s history. So many accounts like this, and so many more not documented or told.

  3. Random Guy says:

    Great post. I can’t read anymore books about the real history of this country…it really REALLY starts to get to me. Seen what’s in school books about it these days? The cloud of lies isn’t any darker. Very dark past, the most sinisterly conniving people literally working their way up the ranks and running the show to this very day….reality that we can’t afford to forgive or forget.

    • Lynette M says:

      It is touchy, as you’ve alluded to, to talk about our history accurately.
      Most folks don’t know about it and those that do would prefer to forget, or push it under the “rug”.
      It is an unfortunately reality, though, and I’m glad you see the value in learning and remembering.

  4. Random Guy says:

    error through fast typing in my previous comment…hopefully obvoius.

    • Lynette M says:

      More than forgiven. My entries are … fraught (I like that word though I don’t know that I’m using it right…) with errors.

  5. Deborah P says:

    Heartbreaking story, and reminiscent of Capone awake in his cell all night, pleading with his brother-in-law (who he had murdered) to be quiet and let him sleep. I hope all murderers are similarly haunted.

  6. Powerful. My prayer is that every person who hates another based on creed, color, or any other unjustified reason, finds their way to your stories.

    Thank you so much for your wonderfully truthful stories of the history of California.

  7. I was so touched by your story, I forgot to say…

    I also love old cemetary’s, the headstones are ancient pieces of time.

    On my blog I have a page called “images” I love to photograph California Missions, and have been to quite a few. Some of them are on the images page. Incluiding a colored photo from the Misson in San Diego, a brick cross, that I found in the mission garden…also a location with a few graves. I think it is the unmarked graves that touch my heart so.

  8. skippy says:

    The Mattole Valley and Petrolia is a beautiful and peaceful place today.

    As indicated here, it wasn’t always so; the Mattole area has had its share of violent history in times past.

    The following letter by Lieutenant Hubbard in June of 1862 indicates some of the depredations and brutal history of the time. This letter is unusual for its tone, the reporting of early pioneer attitudes, and the brief reference to the murder of a child beaten against a tree. (please note: paragraph breaks, italics, and bold mine; letter broken into two posts for brevity)

    Report of Lieut. Charles G. Hubbard, Second California Infantry.
    UPPER MATTOLE, Camp Olney, June 20,1862.

    “I have the honor to report that in pursuance of Special Orders, No. G5, with a detachment of fifteen men from Company A, Second Infantry California Volunteers, I marched from Camp Swasey on the 31st day of May, and arrived at my present camp on Mattole River on the 5th day of June, 1862, stopping one day in Lower Mattole for rest…

    The day after my arrival at this camp, I started with twelve men of my command and seven citizens, with ten days’ rations, to scout and pursue the band of Indians committing most of the depredations in this neighborhood, and were successful in discovering and attacking a ranch of Indians on a small branch of the Mattole River, about twenty miles southerly from camp, and in an almost inaccessible canon, the ranch containing about twenty Indians, large and small, killing 4 Indians, and mortally wounding 1 buck and 1 squaw, and taking prisoners 3 squaws, 2 children, and 1 boy about twelve years of age.

    Unfortunately they were discovered too late in the day to capture the largest portion of the band, some ten bucks and as many squaws having left for Eel River a few hours before. Among those killed being an Indian named Joe, the murderer of Mr. Wise, who was killed last fall in this valley, taking from his person a Colt revolver, recognized as the property of one of the citizens of this valley, and another of the killed, an Indian named Jim, who was a leader in the robberies of Messrs. Porter’s and Aldrich’s houses, described as one of the most vicious characters of the gang of Indian thieves who infest this valley.

    The boy now a prisoner being the one who robbed Mr. Brizentine a short time ago of two guns and two pistols, ammunition, he having been domesticated up to that time, a reward of $100 is offered for his scalp. It is only by the closest attention that I can prevent his being shot down even in camp— killing, mortally wounding, and capturing all the bucks in the ranch at the time, all of them having been active participants in the robberies lately committed. Finding also in their ranch a coat and other property, including a Government overcoat and an ax, recognized as the property of Messrs. Porter, Aldrich, and others, and discovering also in another ranch (deserted) a double-barreled shotgun hid by the Indians…”

    So far as I can ascertain, all the Indians in this portion of the country are hostile; in fact, will ever be so, so long as there are no active and vigorous steps taken to put an end to cold-blooded murder, kidnapping, and treachery. These are the sole causes of difficulties with the Indians, especially in this portion of the country and on Eel River.

    Cold-blooded Indian killing being considered honorable, shooting Indians and murdering even squaws and children that have been domesticated for months and years without a moment’s warning, and with as little compunction as they would rid themselves of a dog, and, as I am informed, one man did, beating his own child’s brains out against a tree and killing the squaw, its mother, for no other reason than that he had no means else of disposing of them, and to keep them from falling into other persons’ hands…”

    (continued below…)</i

  9. skippy says:

    Lieut. Charles G. Hubbard’s letter of June 20, 1862, continued:

    ”…Human life is of no value in this valley, and law seems only to be respected so far as it is backed by visible force. It is well known that kidnapping is extensively practiced by a gang who live in the neighboring mountains, but the difficulty is to obtain absolute and positive proof to insure a conviction under the statute of this State… coupled with other barbarities, murder, rape, &c, which no pen can do justice to.

    If the Indians are hostile they will always be so until some stringent measures are taken to protect them, and to wipe out the perpetrators of these most horrible crimes against humanity. With such examples before them going unpunished, what guaranties from the Government can they depend upon?

    I send to Fort Humboldt seven Indians, among them a young Indian girl, taken by me from one supposed to be an Indian stealer, she being found by him, as he says, wandering in the mountains. She was stolen… from Mr. Langdon when his house was robbed.

    I have also with me a squaw and child, taken from Mr. Pritchard, an old man living near my camp with his wife and two young daughters, he keeping the squaw and being, as he has generally and publicly held out, the father of the child.

    The squaw, however, was taken by me on suspicion of furnishing information, arms, and ammunition to the Indians, she having also been in the mountains under suspicious circumstances for a number of days and against my positive instructions to Mr. Pritchard. Explicit instructions for my guidance in such cases would greatly assist me and settle questions which are becoming rather embarrassing to me.

    As a general thing I am pleased to say the citizens of Upper Mattole have rendered me all the assistance in their power, accompanying me on each scout, acting as faithful and efficient guides…
    The detachment from Company A, Second Infantry California Volunteers, now with me, I cannot but speak of in the highest terms of praise for their promptness, obedience, energy, and endurance…

    This valley and its vicinity has always been the back door to let the Indians out from Eel River when hard pressed from that direction…

    I would call attention to the necessity of prompt and early supply of rations… we are now without a pound of flour, coffee— in fact, everything except rice. I would also call attention to the fact that there are no means of communication with Fort Humboldt, except by the trains arriving here with provisions, or by chance some citizen. One express per week would be a vast accommodation, so that communication could be had with headquarters if necessary.”

    I remain, your most obedient servant,
    First Lieut., Second Infantry California Vols., Comdg. Detachment.

    Commanding Humboldt Military District.

    (Letter sourced from War of the Rebellion: Operations on the Pacific Coast. War Department, Congressional Edition. Government Printing Office, 1897. P 73-75.)

  10. […] thread/topic of Lucy and plan to continue discussing her limited options and the dangers she and her children faced during the settlement period.  The focus of the next (this) post was going to be the risks […]

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: