Little Known History of Slavery in California

January 22, 2013
Child captives (who became child slaves)

Child captives (who became child slaves)

I was honored recently to be able to participate in the TedX Eureka  event where I presented on the History of Slavery (indenture) in California. That video is now posted on youtube:

Link to TedX Video

If you would like me to give a presentation similar to that in the video to your civic group or classroom, please email me at lynette.mullen@gmail.com.  

It is not pleasant history, but it is important and has been lost and forgotten too many times.

~Lynette

Advertisements

In Memory of an Indian boy

July 30, 2011

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.

Read the rest of this entry »


Susie Baker Fountain Papers (or another description of local Indian Slave Labor)

May 4, 2011

 

Indian slave labor—Back in 1862 during Humboldt’s Indian hostilities, actions by the whitemen against the redmen were often on the verge of scandalous… today the occupants of Fort Humboldt would have been court-martialed for their activity…-Captured Indians who were held prisoner were often forced to build roads and do heavy labor of various types… They were not always treated humanely, and often the Indians died from disease and lack of proper feeding because of their captivity…-The prisoners on one occasion cut a military road from Elk Creek to Larabee Creek, named for an infamous pioneer. The road intersected near Cooper’s Mills not far from Hydesville.  The route shorted the distance several miles between Forts Humboldt and Baker… and armed guard kept the Indians at work… [Susie Baker Fountain Papers-Undated -volume 34, page 533]

Humboldt State University and the Humboldt County Library both house the Susie Baker Fountain Collection , an amazing collection of information regarding local history.

From HSU:

Susie Baker Fountain, Humboldt State University’s first graduate in 1915, was a local historian and professional columnist for the Blue Lake Advocate. She developed an extraordinary clipping file and collection of materials on Humboldt County and Del Norte County people, activities, and history from 1850-1966. The collection’s particular strengths include the early period of settlement and development, Indian-white interactions, early military history, real estate, the lumber and railroad industries, accounts of families and individuals, small communities, mining history, and a wide variety of other subjects not found in other sources.


The Legislature’s Majority and Minority Reports on the Mendocino War (1860)

May 3, 2011

 The Legislature’s Majority and Minority Reports on the Mendocino War (1860)

Extracted from Early California Laws and Policies Related to California Indians
By Kimberly Johnston-Dodds, California Research Bureau, California State Library, September 2002

In 1860, the California Legislature created a Joint Special Committee on the Mendocino Indian War to investigate incidents of Indian stealing and killing of settlers’ stock, and alleged atrocities committed by whites against the Indians.[1]
The Joint Special Committee traveled throughout Mendocino County and adjacent locations taking depositions and testimony of prominent settlers in the region. This testimony is part of the official public record, along with the committee’s majority and minority reports about the events.

The Majority Report of the Joint Special Committee

O’Farrell, Dickinson, Maxon and Phelps were authors of the Majority Report. The following are excerpts of the majority’s findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
In Mendocino County…the Indians have committed extensive depredations on the stock of the settlers…The result has been that the citizens, for the purpose of protection to their property, have pursued the tribes supposed to be guilty to their mountain retreats, and in most cases have punished them severely. Repeated stealing and killing of stock, and an occasional murder of a white man, has caused a repetition of the attacks upon the offenders with the same results. The conflict still exists; Indians continue to kill cattle as a means of subsistence, and the settlers in retaliation punish with death. Many of the most respectable citizens of Mendocino County have testified before your committee that they kill Indians, found in what they consider the hostile districts, whenever they lose cattle or horses; nor do they attempt to conceal or deny this fact. Those citizens do not admit, nor does it appear by the evidence, that it is or has been their practice or intention to kill women or children, although some have fallen in the indiscriminate attacks of the Indian rancherias. The testimony shows that in the recent authorized expedition against the Indians in said county, the women and children were taken to the reservations, and also establishes the fact that in the private expeditions this rule was not observed, but that in one instance, an expedition was marked by the most horrid atrocity; but in justice to the citizens of Mendocino County, your committee say that the mass of the settlers look upon such act with the utmost abhorrence…

Accounts are daily coming in from the counties on the Coast Range, of sickening atrocities and wholesale slaughters of great numbers of defenseless Indians in that region of country. Within the last four months, more Indians have been killed by our people than during the century of Spanish and Mexican domination. For an evil of this magnitude, some one is responsible. Either our government, or our citizens, or both, are to blame…


The pre-existing laws and policy of Mexico, as to the status of the Indian, need not have interfered with the views to be taken by our government. Mexico protected the Indian, in her own way, much more effectually than we have done. The very land upon which the aborigines of this State have dwelt, as far back as traditions reach, has been allowed by our government to be occupied by settlers, who thus have the authority of law for a forced occupation of the Indian country. A natural, humane, and proper policy would have protected the Indian in his undeniable rights to the hunting grounds of his forefathers, and would have prevented our border men from entering into a conflict which has cost both lives and property…

 

Your committee do [sic] not think that the wrongs committed upon the Indians of California are chargeable alone to the Federal Government. The evidence appended to this report, disclose facts, from the contemplation of which the mind of peaceful citizens recoil with horror, and prompts the inquiry, if such outrages upon the defenseless are permitted by the proper authorities to go unpunished?


No provocation has been shown, if any could be, to justify such acts. We must admit that the wrong has been the portion of the Indian – the blame with his white brother.


The question resolves itself to this: Shall the Indians be exterminated, or shall they be protected? If the latter, that protection must come from the Federal Government, in the form of adequate appropriations of money and land; and secondly, from this State, by strictly enforcing penal statutes for any infringement upon the rights of Indians. In relation to the recent difficulty between the whites and Indians in Mendocino County, your committee desire to say that no war, or a necessity for a war, has existed, or at the present time does exist. We are unwilling to attempt to dignify, by the term “war” as slaughter of beings, who at least possess human form, and who make no resistance, and make no attacks, either on the person or residence of the citizen.
[2]
The authors of the Majority Report recommended that the California Legislature pass “a law for the better protection of the Indians of California.” [3]

The Minority Report of the Special Joint Committee

Lamar authored the Minority Report and dissented fundamentally from the majority’s view of the events, and their recommendations. Lamar stated, “the testimony will disclose the guilty parties, and from the just indignation of outraged humanity I have no desire to screen them; but for the mass of citizens engaged in this Indian warfare, I claim that they have acted from the strongest motives that govern human action, the defense of life and property.” [4]
Lamar further stated that certain tribes living outside of reservations in the region were “domesticated Indians,” a great number of whom were employed by settlers, receiving “liberal compensation for their labor.” [5] Lamar proposed the following general Indian policy that the State should pursue.
The General Government should first cede to the State of California the entire jurisdiction over Indians and Indian affairs within our borders, and make such donations of land and other property and appropriations of money as would be adequate to make proper provision for the necessities of a proper management.


The State should, then, adopt a general system of peonage or apprenticeship, for the proper disposition and distribution of the Indians by families among responsible citizens. General laws should be passed regulating the relations between the master and servant, and providing for the punishment of any meddlesome interference on the part of third parties. In this manner the whites might be provided with profitable and convenient servants, and the Indians with the best protection and all the necessaries of life in permanent and comfortable homes. [6]

The Mendocino War Reports and the 1860 Amendment to “An Act for the Government and Protection of Indians”

On January 19, 1860, the first version of Assembly Bill No. 65, entitled “An Act amendatory of an Act for the Government and Protection of Indians” was introduced in the California Legislature. [7] Assembly Bill No. 65 proposed broader apprenticeship laws than those contained in the 1850 Act. Various amendments and substitute versions of the bill found in the California State Archives Original Bill File appear to reflect the degree of debate surrounding Indian prisoners of war from expeditions, Lamar’s proposed Indian policies, and more expansive Indian apprenticeship laws. Transcriptions of the proposed versions of of the bill, and the original enrolled version are contained in the Appendix.

 

Appendix. Original Bill Material Pertaining to California Statutes 1860, Chapter 231

This Appendix contains a verbatim transcription of the Original Bill Materials, located in the California State Archives, that are related to the 1860 amendment of the Act for the Government and Protection of Indians passed April 22, 1850. The first document is the initial Assembly Bill No. 65 introduced for consideration on January 19, 1860. The second document is a “substitute” Assembly Bill No. 65, introduced for consideration on February 17, 1860. The third document is the engrossed bill that was enrolled on April 6, 1860.
The first page of each transcribed document in this Appendix contains the legislative history of the bill. This information is handwritten and originally signed by each legislative officer on the front page of the original documents. The language originally contained in the proposed bills, but subsequently deleted from the text during the course of the legislative process is noted in brackets.

 

 

 

An Act amendatory of an act entitled An Act for the Government and Protection of Indians passed April 22, 1850


The People of the State of California represented in Senate and Assembly do enact as follows:


Section 1st , Section third of said Act is hereby amended so as to read as follows

 

An act amendatory of an act entitled an act for the Government and Protection of Indians passed April 22, 1850


Section 3d Any person having or hereafter obtaining any Indian child or children male or female from the parents or relations of such child or children [stricken from text: with their] and wishing to domesticate said child or children and any person desiring to obtain any Indian or Indians either children or grown persons that may have been taken prisoner or prisoners [stricken from text: and wishing to domesticate either children or grown persons in any expedit] of war [stricken from text: in any] and wishing to domesticate said Indians, such person shall go before a Justice of the Peace of the County in which such Indians may [stricken from text: be] reside at the time and if the Justice of the Peace becomes satisfied that no compulsory means have been used to obtain the said child or children from its parents or friends or that the said child or children or other Indian or indians of either sex have been taken and are held as a prisoner or prisoners of war, he shall enter on record, in a book kept for that purpose the sex and probable age of the child or children or other indians, and shall give to such person a certificate authorizing him or her to have the care custody control and earnings of such child or children or other Indians, for and during the following term of years, such children as are under twelve years of age, until they attain the age of twenty five years, such children as are over twelve and under eighteen years of age until they attain the age of thirty years, and such indians as may be over the age of eighteen years, for and during the term of ten years then next following the date of said certificate, any person or persons [stricken: being] having any indian or indians in his or their possession as such prisoners shall have the preference to domesticate as many of such indians as he or they may desire for their own use, every indian either male or female in the possession or under the control of any person under the provisions of this act shall be taken and deemed to be a minor Indian, [stricken from text: for such]


Sec. 2nd Section seventh of said act is hereby amended so as to read as follows,

 

Sec 7. If any person shall forcibly convey any Indian from any place without this State to any place within this State, or from his or her home within this State, or compel him, or her, to work or perform any services against his or her will,


Except as provided in this act, he or they may be upon conviction fined in any sum not less than fifty dollars, nor more than five hundred dollars, at the discretion of the Court

 

 

Section 1st Section third of said Act is hereby amended so as to read as follows:


Section 3: County and District Judges in the respective counties of this State shall by virtue of this Act have full power and authority, at the instance and request of any person having or hereafter obtaining any Indian child or children male or female under the age of fifteen years from the parents or person or persons having the care or charge of such child or children with the consent of such parents or person or persons having the care or charge of any such child or children, or at the instance and request of any person desirous of obtaining any indian or Indians whether children or grown persons that may be held as prisoners of war, or at the instance and request of any person desirous of obtaining any vagrant Indian or Indians as have no settled habitation or means of livelihood and have not placed themselves under the protection of any white person, to bind and put out such
Indians as apprentices to trades — husbandry or other employments as shall to them appear proper, and for this purpose shall execute duplicate Articles of Indenture of Apprenticeship on behalf of such Indians, which Indentures shall also be executed by the person to whom such Indian or Indians are to be indentured: one copy of which shall be filed by the County Judge [stricken from text: with the] in the Recorders Office of the County and one copy retained by the person to whom such Indian or Indians may be indentured; such Indenture shall
authorise [sic] such person to have the care custody control and earnings of such Indian or Indians and shall require such person to clothe and suitably provide the necessaries of life, for such Indian or Indians for and during the term for which such Indian or Indians shall be apprenticed, and shall contain the sex name and
probable age of such Indian or Indians, Such Indentures may be for the following terms of years, such children as are under fourteen years of age, if males until they attain the age of twenty five years; if females until they attain the age of twenty one years; such as are over fourteen and under twenty years of age if males until they attain the age of thirty years; if females until they attain the age of twenty five years; and such Indians as may be over the age of twenty years for and during the term of ten years then next following the date of such Indenture at
the discretion of such Judge. Such Indians as may be indentured under the provisions of this section shall be deemed within such provisions of this act as are applicable to minor Indians


Section 2d Section seventh of said act is hereby amended so as to read as follows,


Section 7 If any person shall forcibly convey any Indian from any place without this State to any place within this State or from his or her home within this State, or compel him or her to work or perform any service against his or her will except as provided in this Act he or they shall upon conviction thereof be fined in any sum not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars before any court having jurisdiction at the discretion of the Court, and the collection of such fine shall be enforced as provided by law in other criminal cases, one half to be paid to the prosecutor and one have [sic] to the County in which such conviction is had

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes

 

[1] The Joint Special Committee was comprised of Jasper O’Farrell (Sonoma, Marin, Mendocino), and W.B. Dickinson (El Dorado), as the Senate Committee. Joseph B. Lamar (Mendocino, Sonoma), William B. Maxon (San Mateo) and Abner Phelps (San Francisco) comprised the House Committee. Don A. Allen, Legislative Sourcebook: The California Legislature and Reapportionment, 1849-1965, (Sacramento: Assembly of the State of California, 1965), 364, 374, 450, 456.

 

[2] “Majority Report of the Special Joint Committee on the Mendocino War,” in Appendix to Journals of the Senate, of the Eleventh Session of the Legislature of the State of California, (Sacramento: C.T. Botts, State Printer, 1860), 4-6.

 

[3] Ibid., 7.
[4] “Minority Report of the Special Joint Committee on the Mendocino War,” in Appendix to Journals of the Senate, of the Eleventh Session of the Legislature of the State of California, (Sacramento: C.T. Botts, State Printer, 1860), 10.

 

[5] Ibid.
62 Ibid.
[7] Journal of the House of Assembly

 


Building an early bridge at Fort Seward, c. 1920

March 15, 2011

Fort Seward, c. 1920

 

Fort Seward, view west (Stine)

 

While I think the photos are amazing, those familiar with this blog will understand that I can’t resist referring folks to the early history of Fort Seward.

For a location description and more, see wikipedia.


Criminalizing heroes and sometimes saving them

January 28, 2011

“]”]

Plantation Slaves: Son of the South website

Continued from previous post

Note: I know this is a lot of information, but I chose not to edit so the readers can get a feel for the language, emotion, etc. that surrounded these events (that and I haven’t a lot of time to edit…).

In a letter to his former congregation, Pardon Davis expressed fear that the church wouldn’t support his decision to help the runaway slaves,

“If [you] could go on the plantation near where I lived, and at night, when the cotton was weighed, out of two hundred, not less than twelve are whipped every night—O! could you hear the shrieks, cries, groans, prayers — yes, if you could see the victim on his knees praying with all the earnestness a man is capable of, to that brutal overseer, and promising to strain every nerve on the morrow to pick more cotton – it is enough to melt the heart of any one. Who can look on such scenes as these, and not be moved? Brethren, i cannot. And now what more can I say? Have I done wrong? Have I done more than any man ought to do? Dear brethren, I leave you to judge. and I am willing to be governed by your decision. I wait with the greatest anxiety to hear from you, to know whether I shall receive your sympathies and prayers, or whether I have done wrong, and am considered a heathen. If the former, I can bear my affliction with fortitude; but if the latter, I feel my life hangs by a slender thread that my days are numbered. In the mean time, brethren pray for me. Sisters, remember me in your prayers.

 

but he shouldn’t have…

  Read the rest of this entry »


Buy a boy in Humboldt for $30

January 10, 2011

 

A recent comment/request for information by Ric, a  blog visitor in Washington, has prompted me to look through old records.

 The following entry in Norton’s book  listing indentured Native Americans  struck me as  particularly poignant.

In October of 1860, Leon Chevret (whose name graces a road in Blue Lake) registered an indenture for George, who was eight years old at the time, and  “Bought 18 months previously by L.C. from C. Clarke of Mattole for $30”

To 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 reservation  (see post one, two , & three  for more on the topic)

 But Indenture  was no perfect answer.

 And no matter how you look at it, a human being in Humboldt County was purchased for $30.