17 February 2020

Awaiting the Peace Commission [guest post by Edward Fox, 17 February 1873]


[From the New York Herald, 1873; story by Edward Fox]
A
waiting the arrival of the Peace Commission appointed by the Secretary of the Interior to arrange the troubles with the Modoc Indians, the troops are in a state of inactivity, encamped at Lost River, Clear Lake, Van Bremer’s and Dorris’ ranch. It has been definitely announced that Messrs. Jesse Applegate, A. B. Meacham and Samuel Case are the three gentlemen who have been entrusted with the diplomatic arrangements about to be entered into with Captain Jack and his tribe.
Mr. Jesse Applegate is one of the oldest settlers and explorers of Oregon, and in the pursuance of his profession as surveyor has travelled over the greater part of the State, and is personally acquainted with the Modoc Indians. He is said to be on good terms with Captain Jack and some of the party, but there are some of the men who do not entertain the most kindly feelings towards him, and are reported to have expressed an extreme interest as to the length of his hair, with a view to adorning their wigwam with those revered gray hairs. I have talked with Mr. Applegate on the likelihood of peace, and he evidently appreciates the difficulties that are before him in the attempt to make a treaty with the Modocs that will prove satisfactory to the government and the settlers. The latter portion of the community, especially those residing in Oregon, are decidedly warlike in their aspirations, thirst for the blood of the lava bed Indians, and are evidently opposed to all movements in favor of peace.
Mr. A. B. Meacham was formerly Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the State of Oregon, and was succeeded in that office by Mr. Odeneal, the present superintendent. Mr. Meacham was in office at the time that Jack and his tribe went to the Yainax reservation, and after stopping there a couple of months left in disgust, stating that they were starved, and had to kill their horses and eat them in order to keep body and soul together. This statement is, however, contradicted by the friends of Mr. Meacham, who state that the Modoc Indians were well treated on the reservation, and that Captain Jack only made the above statement in order to make an excuse for returning to Lost River. There are others, however, who place implicit confidence in Captain Jack’s story, and state positively that it was only actual starvation drove Jack’s party from the reservation back to their hunting and fishing grounds on Lost River. Mr. Meacham certainly while in office took a lively interest in the case of those Modoc Indians, and forwarded their claims to this Lost River land to Washington, with a recommendation that it should be granted. It is also stated that in consequence of the lively interest Mr. Meacham assumed in behalf of these Indians, interest was brought to bear in Washington which caused his removal and the nomination of Mr. Odeneal to the office. It is therefore assumed as Mr. Meacham is appointed one of the Peace Commissioners, that the government have come to the conclusion that his policy was right.
Mr. Samuel Case, the third Commissioner, is the Indian agent on the Alsea reservation. This reservation is situated on the coast, about one hundred and thirty miles south of the Columbia River. He has been connected and engaged in the management of Indians for the past ten years, but has never had any business whatever with the Modoc Indians. It appears, therefore, that Mr. Case has been selected with a view to being a kind of umpire between the two other Commissioners, who are thoroughly well acquainted with the Modocs and their grievances.
Life at Lost River camp has been very monotonous, and with the exception of an occasional crack at a prairie hen or a jack rabbit there was literally nothing to do. On last Thursday [sic—Friday] evening a little excitement was effected by the discovery of some smoke in the distance, and, as it appeared to rise from the neighborhood of Dennis Crawley’s log hut, General Gillem sent out a detachment of cavalry, under the charge of Lieutenant Rockwell, to investigate the matter. The cavalry returned in about three hours’ time, and Lieutenant Rockwell reported that Crawley’s hut was burned to the ground; but he was unable to ascertain the cause, it being too dark to see any tracks. In the morning Colonel Green, several officers and a troop of cavalry rode out to the same spot and discovered the tracks of three or four Indians ponies and also the tracks of two men, who had crossed the river in a canoe, gone up to the hut, and afterwards beat a hasty retreat. From this it was surmised that a party of Indians, numbering probably four or five, had been out on a scout, and on their way home had sent two men across the river to burn Crawley’s hut, by way of bravado, as they knew the smoke would be seen at the Lost River camp.
On Saturday morning [15 February] General Gillem, Lieutenant Rockwell, Mr. Jesse Applegate, Surgeon McElderry and the Herald correspondent left Lost River camp and rode over to Linkville in order to be present at the meeting of the Peace Commission. Linkville is about fifteen miles due west of Lost River camp, and is situated on Link River, about half way between the two Klamath lakes. It consists of a store, a hotel, a barroom, a land office and a blacksmith’s shop, and has also been rendered famous in this war as the headquarters of those settlers whose bloodthirsty threats were the means of adding fourteen warriors to Captain Jack’s band in the lava beds. When we arrived we found General Canby and his aide-de-camp, Captain Anderson, in possession of the hotel. General Canby is the officer in command of the Department of the Columbia, but in the absence of General Schofield is commanding the Division on the Pacific. Mr. Samuel Case had also arrived, but Mr. A. B. Meacham, the other Commissioner, had not been heard from. General Gillem joined forces with General Canby and put up at the hotel and the balance of the party were billeted elsewhere.

[The appointment of Samuel Case can better be explained by reference to the object of the Peace Commission. The idea was to persuade the Modocs to resettle at the Coast, and Case was in charge of the Alsea subagency there. Dennis Crawley’s hut was actually burned on Friday, 14 February, however, as Fox correctly noted in his telegraphed dispatch. This building was near the Modoc village on the north side of Lost River that the settlers attacked on 29 November. After the attack the settlers took refuge there. sbh]

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