A deadly “cold”

February 5, 2010

I’ve  been having a lot of fun with this blog lately.  I LOVE finding random historical stuff to share and the great, encouraging feedback I get (thanks, everyone!)

 That said, every once in a while I need to return to why I created this site in the first place.   Learning about Lucy’s murder and the “settlement period” of Humboldt County (1850s and 1860s)  opened my eyes an inportant aspect of our community’s history. One that I believe is too often ignored or swept away.

The rugged isolation of our northcoast region protected the Native Americans living here long after the rest of the state had been settled by the Spanish, and the missions dominated the landscape and altered indigenous life forever. 

Unfortunately, the discovery of gold, and a desire for a faster, easier routes to the inland gold mines brought an end to Humboldt County’s isolation.  White settlers came into the area and began competing for resources,

 And women.

Out-armed and unprepared, the indigenous people were soon dominated by the whites. Most that didn’t surrender, died.  There were a few, however, that resisted the white’s incursion on their ancestral land and were successful for a time.  One was “Chief Lassik”,

(From an earlier post)

One website,   quoting  Genocide and Vendetta, says:

  • Further north in Humboldt County there was widespread resistance. One of the most active was Chief Lassik’s band, which succeeded in driving the settlers out of their territory in southeastern and southwestern Humboldt County. Chief Lassik and his band were captured in 1862, but were able to escape from the Smith River Reservation. After escaping, he headed south along the Klamath River and “stirred up discontent and revengeful feelings.” Although Chief Lassik was finally caught and killed in 1863, for over one year he was able to carry on a campaign of resistance against the settlers.


I’ve been looking through old newspapers lately, and just ran across the following regarding the demise of Chief Lassik, which is in sharp contrast to his niece’s recollection, which I’ll repost after this “official” newspaper report.  Yeah, I know it was “war”, but that doesn’t make learning about it any easier.

Humboldt Times, 23 January 1863– “It is pretty well know that an inveterate hatred exists between that portion of the Wylackie tribe … known as the “Gun Indians” and the whites living in the valleys living and canons north of here.  A few days since, a number of them, including Lasseck, then chief, ere captured by teh whites, and taken to Fort Seward. From then they attempted to take them to the Reservation–to Round Valley, we prsume–but “on the way they took cold and died.”  This, at least, is the way we get the word.  But knowing,m as we do, the animosity existing between these Indians and the whites inhabiting the region of the Humboldt mail route, and the numerous depredatiknos supposed to have been committed by them, we susepct the “cold” they died with was mainly cold lead.–Quoting the Mendocino Herald.

We have received a letter from Fort Seward corraborating the above intelligence.  Five of Lassux’ band died with the same kind of “cold” as himself.  As the alternative is now Smith River, or Round Valley, we are under the impression that Superintendent Handon will not be under the necessity of squandering any more of the “small pittance” allowed him by the Government in removing Indians from this county to eighter of the above named Reservations.  Unless Government provided other quarters, this “cold” epidemic will rage fearfully among Indians that fall in to the hands of citizens, if not the soldiers. 

As a little girl, Lucy Young, Lassik’s niece, witnessed and  later told the story of her uncle’s death.

At last I come home. Mother at Fort Seward. Before I get there, I see big fire in lots down timber and treetops. Same time awful funny smell. T think someone get lots of wood.

I go on to house. Everybody crying. Mother tell me, “All our men killed now.” She say white men there, others come from Round Valley, Humboldt County too, kill our old uncle, Chief Lassic, and all other men.

Stood up about forty Inyan in a row with rope around neck. “What’s this for?” Chief Lassic say. “To hang you dirty dogs,” white men tell it. “Hanging, that’s dogs death,” Chief Lassic say. “We done nothing to be hung for. Must die, shoot us.”

So they shoot. All our men. Then build fire with wood and brush. Inyan been cut for days. Never know it their own funeral fire they fix. Build big fire, burn all them bodies. That’s funny smell I smell before I get to house. Make hair raise on back of my neck. Make sick stomach too.