[From the New York Herald, 1873; story by Edward Fox]
Fairchild’s Ranch, Feb. 20, 1873.
y last letter, dated from Dorris’ ranch, was despatched in rather a hurry, as the courier was sent earlier than usual with some important government despatches, and I was, therefore, forced to break off in the middle of my description of the first meeting of the Peace Commissioners.
We did not arrive at Linkville until late in the afternoon of Saturday, February 15, and at about four P.M. the Peace Commission met in a small room under the Land Office. Messrs. Jesse Applegate and Samuel Case were present. The former took the chair, and Mr. Case immediately moved the appointment of Mr. Oliver Applegate, Indian Agent at Yainax, as Clerk of the Commission. Mr. Jesse Applegate seconded the motion and Mr. Oliver Applegate was declared duly elected. The private secretary of the Governor of Oregon then came forward and handed an official document to the Commissioners. Both gentlemen eyed it in rather a suspicious manner; but it was finally opened and read by Mr. Jesse Applegate—the substance of which, I see from a despatch, has already been reported in the Herald. Both gentlemen appeared rather “flabbergasted” at the letter, and some remarks were made respecting the sanity of the aforesaid Governor; but finally “Uncle Jesse,” as he is best known in this section of the country, took the bull by the horns, and the objectionable document was laid on the table. The Commissioners, on motion of Mr. Case, then adjourned, to meet at Van Bremer’s ranch on Monday, February 17.
Saturday night was passed at Linkville, and at about nine on Sunday a start was effected for Dorris’ ranch. The mounted party consisted of General Gillem, Acting Adjutant General Rockland, Dr. McElderry, Captain Anderson, Captain Oliver Applegate and Mr. Samuel Case. The three ambulances were occupied by General Canby, Uncle Jesse Applegate and your correspondent. In a weak moment I lent my horse to Captain Anderson, thinking that a drive would be a pleasant change, and I must confess that up to that time I had not formed a correct opinion of the roads in that vicinity. During the first two miles the sidelings were so bad and the ruts to port so deep that General Canby got out and walked, while I hung out on the starboard side, holding fast to the weather rigging. As ballast I proved a success, and probably saved the ship from capsizing on two or three occasions. We arrived at Klamath ferry about two P.M., and General Canby had a talk with Mrs. Whittle, an intelligent Klamath [woman], the wife of the ferryman, which resulted in her promising to take a message into the lava beds if required. The remainder of the road was pretty good, with the exception of one hill, which appeared to be covered by loose rocks of considerable size and over which we drove regardless of consequences. Dorris’ ranch came in sight just before dark, and at seven o’clock P.M. all hands were sitting down to supper, a meal which was eaten with relish by the travellers. There was rather a pinch that evening for accommodation, and the floor of the storeroom was pretty closely packed, making it all the warmer during these cold, frosty nights.
Monday morning was passed very quietly at Dorris’, and, in the afternoon, General Canby, his staff of officers and the Peace Commission moved up to Fairchild’s ranch, where they now have their headquarters. I waited until Tuesday and then rode up and joined them. In the afternoon Mr. A. B. Meacham arrived, and the same evening the Peace Commissioners and General Canby sat in secret session in a small outhouse. That habitation had been furnished with two short benches and a three-legged stool in honor of the occasion. Their deliberations resulted in the despatch of a messenger for [Mrs. Whittle] and Modoc Sally, a [woman] on the Klamath reservation. Mr. Meacham was elected chairman of the Commission, and after the meeting was over he kindly posted the Herald correspondent as to the business transacted. Mr. Meacham said as soon as one of the [women] arrives she will be sent into Captain Jack’s camp to see if he is willing to talk. If she should return and report favorably another messenger will be sent in to arrange for a meeting between Captain Jack and the Commissioners.
On Wednesday I rode over to Van Bremer’s ranch and passed the day with Major Miller, Major Throckmorton and the other officers at the camp. We talked over the prospects of peace, and it appeared to be the general opinion that the instructions from Washington were of such a peaceful nature as to make the business of the Peace Commissioners an affair easy to arrange. When I returned to Fairchild’s I found that Mrs. Whittle had arrived, and in the evening Mr. Meacham had a talk with her, and gave his instructions, which were simply to explain how peacefully inclined President Grant was and the desire of the Peace Commissioners to talk over the question with Captain Jack. Mrs. Whittle and a [woman] called Artena left early this morning for Captain Jack’s camp.
It is the general opinion in this neighborhood that the Peace Commission will fizzle out, as the right men are not on it. It is in fact more plainly expressed in a remark made to me yesterday. “They can’t be elected, as the wrong men are on the ticket.” It certainly does appear strange that some names were not put on the Peace Commission of men known to the Indians and in whom they could trust and have reliance. Again, there are many complaints that California has no representatives in the council. The war is in California and the Indians are in California, and yet three Oregon men have been selected to decide what is to be done with them. The settlers in this neighborhood say that nothing can be done by the present Commission, as the Indians will not talk with them. Mr. Meacham was the Superintendent of Indian Affairs when Captain Jack went on the Klamath reservation.
Jack states that he left the reservation because he was starved and only half blankets were served out to him and his people. The [women] in this neighborhood all reiterate the same complaint. Again, in justice to Mr. Meacham, he denies the complaint in toto, and says that he furnished the blankets to the Indians with his own hands and that the Indians were well fed while on the reservation. Several Indian agents attached to adjoining reservations also support Mr. Meacham’s statement.
Captain Oliver Applegate, the agent at Yainax, states that he never heard Jack make such a complaint, he having always stated that he left Klamath reservation on account of the Klamath Indians, and also because he had been advised to remain at Lost River, as the land belonged to him and the white people could not turn him off it.
It is very hard to say what instructions the Peace Commission have received from the President, but it is generally understood they are of a peaceful nature. They will have to be very liberal to insure peace, as it is hardly probable the Indians will come out of the lava beds unless they are all pardoned. At present the Curley-Headed Doctor’s party, or the murderers’ party, are in the ascendant, numbering about twenty-five to Captain Jack’s ten or twelve. Now, even if it is true that Captain Jack is anxious for peace, he would not have the power to give up the murderers to the civil authorities, and even should he wish to come out himself the others would probably not allow him to move. It would certainly be highly impolitic to give the Lost River land to these Modoc Indians under existing circumstances, as it will simply depopulate the surrounding country of white people. Should these Indians be placed on the Lost River land they would become so saucy and independent that it would be impossible for them and whites to occupy the same section of country.
It is reported that the Indians are to be removed to a distant reservation on the sea coast, and if the Peace Commission can get them out of the lava beds, the murderers given up and the rest located on some reservation on the sea coast, they will confer a benefit on this community that should reap for them the thanks of the people of the United States.
[Note: For what it is worth, Oliver Applegate and two other witnesses who were there at the time the Lost River Modocs came onto Klamath Reservation support Meacham’s statement about the blankets. William P. Harris and George Nurse both agreed that every member of the band received a full blanket; half blankets were issued, but only to the small children. On the charge of starvation there is a similar divergence between the stories of the Modocs and the agency people. The Modocs complained that they were issued only musty barley and semi-putrid beef, and that they had to kill their horses for food. Both Ivan and Oliver Applegate denied this story, and A. H. Miller noted in addition, “No beef was purchased on contract, but 26 head of large work oxen, belonging to the Indian Department, were killed and issued to this band of Modocs during their brief stay on the Reservation. They killed no horses for subsistence, that I am aware of, and knowing, as I do, that there was no necessity for their doing so, I have no doubt that the report is a ‘white-cloth’ fabrication.”Portland Bulletin, 12 March 1873. sbh]