December 9, 2005
Nevada's Online State News Journal
[From Thompson & West's History of Nevada 1881, With Illustrations And Biographical Sketches Of Its Prominent Men And Pioneers, pp. 145-158]
INDIANS, AND THEIR WARS IN NEVADA. 145
INDIANS, AND THEIR WARS IN NEVADA.
First Expedition of Whites—Washoe Raids—Murder of Peter Lassen—Gov. Roop and the Indians—The War of 1860— Numaga's Effort for Peace—Burning of Williams Station—Demand for Vengeance—Volunteers for the Expedition—The Battle Field—An Aimless Charge and Wild Retreat—Death of Major Ormsby—A Nameless Hero—Closing Scenes —Effects of the Defeat.
THE first intercourse between the white and red race in Nevada, of which there is any record, dates from 1832. In August of that year Milton Sublette reached the head-waters of the Humboldt River, with a company of trappers, among whom was the celebrated Joe Meek, long afterwards a resident of Oregon, of whom the following traditionary story is told by Mrs. F. F. Victor, in her book entitled "Mountain and Forest." Within a few days after their arrival at that place, Meek shot and killed a Shoshone Indian. The unfortunate, though famous mountaineer, N. J. Wythe, who was also of the party, asked the trapper why he had done this, and was told that it was only a hint "to keep the Indians from stealing their traps."
"Had be stolen any ?" queried his questioner. "No," replied Meek; "but he looked as if he was going to."
This was a suggestive introduction of the whites to the natives of Nevada; one that gives the chief actor a distinction over which it requires, upon our part, a great effort to become enthusiastic.
The following year Captain B. L. E. Bonneville started an expedition of forty men* under Joseph Walker, from the Green River Valley, to explore and trap the country west from Salt Lake to the Pacific Ocean—Meek being one of the party. Kit Carson was not one of them. He had been seriously wounded, a couple of months prior to this, in an encounter with the Black Feet Indians, and later in the season trapped the Humboldt down to its Sink, and no farther. Consequently, the oft-repeated assertion that he discovered the Carson River in 1833, is untrue. The company made its way slowly down the Humboldt, trapping as it went, until the curiosity of the natives had gradually overcome their fears of the whites. From day to day their numbers increased in the vicinity of, but at what they considered, a safe distance from, the camp and line of the strangers' advance. At night the more daring would occasionally steal into camp and carry off some trifling article that seemed to them a treasure of priceless value.
Their petty larceny proclivities, combined with their constantly increasing numbers, eventually aroused the suspicion of Walker, who claimed, as justification of what followed, to have feared a meditated attack.
Washington Irving, in his account of this expedition, says:--
At length, one day, they came to the banks of a stream emptying into Ogden's River (Humboldt), which they were obliged to ford. Here a great number of Shosbones were posted on the opposite bank. Persuaded that they were there with hostile intent, they advanced upon them, leveled their rifles, and killed twenty-five+ of them upon the spot. The rest fled to a short distance, then halted and turned about, howling and whining like wolves and uttering the most piteous wailings. The trappers chased them in every direction; the poor wretches made no defense, but fled with terror; neither does it appear
* Mrs. F. F. Victor places the number at 118, see "Mountain and Forest," by that authoress, page 143 and 144.
+ The number killed is placed at seventy-five by same authoress in same book, see page 146.
146 HISTORY OF THE STATE OF NEVADA.
from the account of the boasted victors, that a weapon had been wielded or a weapon launched by the Indians throughout the affair. We feel perfectly convinced that the poor savages had no hostile intention, but had merely gathered together through motives of curiosity.
A member of Walker's company, one morning, found some of his traps missing, and swore that he would have the life of the first Indian he met. Soon after he chanced to see a couple fishing along the margin of the river, unconscious of approaching danger, when he deliberately raised his rifle and fired at one of them, who sank to the earth as his death-cry rang out over the valley.
When the hunters reached the sink of the Humboldt, they struck across the country towards the west. Arriving at Pyramid Lake, they followed the Truckee River up into the Sierra Nevada mountains, and from thence passed across to the Sacramento, following nearly the same route now traversed by the Central Pacific Railroad.
After the departure of Walker's party, there was no more slaughter of Indians for the ensuing seventeen years, although numerous expeditions passed through Nevada, culminating in 1849-50 in a tidal wave of whites from over the plains that passed down the western slope, a deluge upon the golden plains of California.
The passage of emigrants through the country, among whom were many that were reckless, and some who thought that the reputation of having killed an Indian would transform them into heroes, resulted in the slaughter of some straggling Shoshones, along the Humboldt in 1849. Several instances of the kind occurred, where they were shot in retaliation for real or fancied aggressions. In 1850 this tribe, or portions of it, commenced a series of depredations that lasted until the close of 1863.
In June, 1850, a train from Joliet, Illinois, among whom was Capt. Robert Lyon, who relates that while camped at a point near where Elko now is, they lost one of their party, who was shot through the heart with an arrow while on picket duty. An ineffectual attempt was made to stampede the horses, but three of the animals that were running loose fell into the hands of the Indians. The next day the man was buried near Gravelly Ford, and the emigrants pursued their way. About twenty miles from the Ford they came upon another train of seven wagons and twelve men that had no stock, all of it having been stampeded and driven off, and they were forced to burn their wagons, and go on foot the balance of the way to California. Later the same season another train was served in the same way, all its stock being taken; but with the assistance of others, among whom chanced to be several mountaineers, pursuit of the Shoshones was made under the leadership of one ____ Warner, resulting in a surprisal of the Indians, the killing of some thirty of them, and the recovery of the stock. This put a stop to troubles that season.
In the spring of 1851, Walter Cosser, now living in Douglas County, in this State, left Salt Lake for the purpose of going to California. There were five men accompanying Cosser's party, among whom was the since notorious Bill Hickman, the Danite, or destroying angel of Brigham Young. The five were under the leadership of Hickman; and while they were camped at Stony Point, on the Humboldt River, some Shoshones were standing around, when one of the Danite gang shot and killed a couple of them. Their only reason given for doing it was the pleasure that killing of redskins afforded the murderers. Three or four days later, while upon the same river, Hickman's satellites killed two more Indians and a squaw, and scalped the former. As before, they made no attempt at justifying their acts by accusing their victims of having committed a wrong.
In the fall of the same year (1851) Col. A. Woodard of Sacramento, California, in company with two guards named Oscar Pitzer and John Hawthorn, were carrying the mail from Salt Lake to Sacramento, and camped one night at the scene of Hickman's massacre. That night a mortal tragedy was enacted there among the mountains, by the banks of the Humboldt River; but its silent, passing waters, told no tale. The next traveler over the route found the mangled bodies of three white men at Stony Point, and the newspapers of the Pacific Coast recorded the fact as another outrage on the overland road by savages, and demanded an extermination of the tribe. The party who discovered these bodies was S. A. Kinsey, who now lives at Genoa, in this State. He was carrying the eastward-bound mail for Salt Lake, and was accompanied by a couple of men as guards; but upon their arrival at the scene of the late tragedies, they camped, intending to pass a dangerous point ahead in the night. As darkness came they were prevented from doing so, however, by the Indians, who built fires in places that revealed any object that might pass that way. To go around was impossible. They were consequently forced to remain at camp until daylight before making the attempt to continue their journey. In the morning they mounted and rode forward. Where the river came nearest to the rocks a number of willows were growing, and the horsemen, as they approached this place, leveled their rifles at it and rode quietly along, turning in their saddles as they passed, to enable them to continue facing the point of danger. Thus they made their way along by the willows to a more open and safe locality. As they passed beyond rifle range, however, and lowered their weapons, a number of Indians sprang out from their willow ambush, yelling and gesticulating in impotent rage at the escape of their proposed victims.
In June, 1851, Joseph Zumwalt, now a resident of California, visited Lake Tahoe, from whence he made a trip by the way of Dayton to Truckee Meadows, and from the latter place to Pyramid Lake. In passing down the river between these last-named points,
INDIANS, AND THEIR WARS IN NEVADA. 147
his party came upon the half-decomposed body of a white man, whose hair was red, and they buried the remains. He had been pursued and finally murdered by a large band of Indians, probably Pah-Utes; this much the numerous pony tracks, still distinguishable in the soil, revealed, and nothing more.
In the summer of 1852, a man who kept a station on the overland road at a point near the present site of Empire, came up to Eagle Station and informed those stopping there that a band of Washoes on the east side of the river, near that place, had in their possession several American horses that he supposed, of course, they had no right to. It was immediately determined by all to go down and take the animals away from the Indians. The whites, under the leadership of Pearson, a noted Indian fighter, consisted of Frank Hall, now of Carson, his brother, W. L. Hall, of Esmeralda County, the station keeper, and a man named Cady. They found the Washoes with little trouble, but failed to discover the American stock. They found also, that the squaws were taking the unnecessary camp equipage of the band, up the mountain to the east. This looked like business, and when a body of about sixty warriors with their paint on, advanced upon them, matters assumed a decidedly hostile appearance. Pearson, the leader, decided that there were too many to justify risking a fight, and with two of his followers "lit out." Frank Hall and ____ Cady concluded to await the approach of the enemy and "play the friendly dodge," which they did by distributing their small stock of tobacco among them. Of course the Indians did not object to the gifts, but, after accepting them, ordered the donors to hunt their eyrie at the base of the mountain in the west, and they hunted.
A few days later Cady was riding along a trail not far from where Dayton now is, and overtook an Indian, and like a brave man, deliberately shot him.
In 1852, the Indians made many raids upon the stock in Carson Valley. In retaliation the whites captured a couple of the tribe and brought them into the Mormon Station as hostages, for a return of the stolen property. One of the captives was a powerful man, dressed in a full buckskin suit, and the other was a mere lad, some sixteen years of age, who dressed as nature had clothed him. Several days passed and nothing was heard from the lost animals; when one morning the larger Indian was let walk out a little way by himself, and he suddenly made a dash for freedom. He scattered his garments as he went, and naked as he was born, bounded like a frightened stag away toward the mountains. The guard, named ____ Terry, had in a careless way leaned his gun against the stockade, and was probably ten yards away from it when the warrior started; but in a moment be had the formidable rifle in his grasp, and taking a long, deliberate aim, fired. As the whip-like report broke upon the morning stillness the runner leaped high into the air and then fell to the ground; and when they had reached the fallen Washoe, he was dead. The Indian boy had not seen the fate of his companion; but the rifle shot had told him enough; and he was badly frightened, expecting a similar fate for himself. His terror so impressed those who had him in charge that they determined to set him at liberty. They fitted him up with a suit of new clothes, hat, coat, pants and shoes, and then leading him about a hundred yards away, pointed to the hills about twenty miles across the valley, where his people were, and said to him, "go." At first he moved off in a hesitating kind of way, looking doubtfully back over his shoulder, expecting every instant to hear the dreaded rifle speak death to him. At length his movements became more assured. He scanned the country ahead, looked back once more, then suddenly leaping into the air, those shoes went spinning into the sage-brush on either side, and the boy was off for the camp of the Washoes with the speed of the wind.
Between the years 1852 and 1857 there were more or less murders, both of whites and Indians, along the line of the overland road; within what is now Nevada. In 1857 two men were killed by Washoes, on the road running south of Lake Tahoe over the mountains to California. Their names were John McMarlin and James Williams, and both were on their way to California in charge of separate pack trains from Mormon Station. Both were killed by Washoes the same day, Williams at Slippery Ford Hill where he was buried, and McMarlin on the summit near by. The body of the latter was taken to 'Carson Valley, and buried on the ranch now owned by Mrs. Clayton. There was no white survivor of the double tragedy, consequently, none to tell of the scene that was enacted in the shadows of the pines, up among the rocks and ravines of the Sierra, where their life's journey ended.
MURDER OF PETER LASSEN.
In March, 1859, some prospectors went over from Honey Lake Valley to search for gold in the Black Rock country, in what is now known as Humboldt County. Some of them had been there before, consequently the party separated, four going in advance of the other three. They had an understanding that they were to meet in a cañon on Clapp Creek, where running water is to be found during a portion of the year. The creek is about twenty miles northwest of Black Rock. The second party consisted of Peter Lassen—after whom a peak in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is named --accompanied by ____ Clapper and ____ Wyatt. They had reached the mouth of the cañon up which the rendezvous had been appointed, as night came on, and camped by a large boulder till morning. At daylight Lassen got lit his pipe, sat down and was smoking, when the party was fired on by a concealed foe, and Clapper was killed. Lassen sprang to his feet, rifle in hand, and scanned the surrounding rocks in search of the assailants, but unable to see any, told Wyatt
148 HISTORY OF THE STATE OF NEVADA.
to move their camp equipage to a safer place, while he watched and kept the enemy at bay. The latter had taken one load of their effects away, and was returning for more, when another volley from among the twilight shadows rang out on the morning air; and the brave old hero of many a mountain battle sank down by the rock where he had been standing. As Wyatt came up he said to him, "I am done for at last; take care of yourself;" and, mounting a bare-backed horse, the only survivor, dashed away over the rocks and plains of sand to bear the sad news to the settlements. The four men camped further up the cañon knew nothing of the disaster until they were met on their way into the Honey Lake Station by a party on its way out to recover the bodies of the two victims. They were buried where they had been killed, but in November of that year Lassen's remains were removed to Honey Lake.
The winter of 1859-60 was one of unprecedented severity in Nevada, and the summer that preceded it had witnessed the first wave of white emigration from California to the Comstock. The spirit of discontent had gained a pretty thorough hold of the natives of the country, before these last causes had been added to their real and fancied wrongs. Many of them were led to believe that the evil spirit had been angered by the presence in the territory of so many whites; and that in consequence thereof, he was sending the storms that were freezing and starving them.
GOVERNOR ROOP AND THE INDIANS.
The Territorial Enterprise, published in Carson in December, 1859, in mentioning the arrival of Gov. Isaac Roop from Honey Lake, said:
The Indians in Truckee Meadows are freezing and starving to death by scores. In one cabin the Governor found three children dead and dying. The whites are doing all they can to alleviate the miseries of the poor Washoes. They have sent out and built fires for them, and offered them bread and other provisions. But in many instances the starving Indians refuse to eat, fearing that the food is poisoned. They attribute the severity of the winter to the whites. * * * The Truckee River is frozen over hard enough to bear up loaded teams.
On the 13th of January, 1860, Dexter E. Demming was brutally murdered by Pah-Utes at his ranch in Willow Creek Valley, just north of Honey Lake Valley, in what has since been determined to be California. This resulted in the following petition addressed to Governor Roop:—
SUSANVILLE, Nevada Ter., Jan. 15, 1860.
DEAR SIR: We, the undersigned, would most respectfully urge the necessity of your Excellency's calling out the military forces under your command to follow and chastise the Indians upon our borders. We make this request to your Excellency from the fact that we have received information that we fully rely upon, to the effect that Mr. Demming has been murdered, and his house robbed, on or about the 15th instant, by Indians, within the borders of Nevada Territory. Your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, etc.
A. D. McDonald, Fred. Morrison,
Wm. Brayton, G. W. Mitchell,
E. Aubrey, John D. Robinson,
Wm. Hamilton, S. H. Painter,
D. Chandler, Milton Craig,
G. W. Fry, A. A. Holcomb,
E. Brannan, Wm. Hobby,
Wm. Hill, A. D. Beecher,
J. E. Shearer, Dr. Jas. W. Stettinias,
Geo. W. Shearer, Dr. H. S. Barrette,
Jas. Belcher, B. E. Shumway,
E. R. Nicols, L. Vary,
Cyrus Smith, Dan Murry,
E. A. Rower, J. H. Hollingsworth,
W. M. Cain, Jas. A. A. Ohen or Cohen,
Wm. Arullary, A. L. Tunison,
Thomas Bare, Jas. Huntington,
Z. C. Dow, E. L. Varney,
Thos. Sheffield, M. S. Thompson,
E. G. Banghan, Clark Doty,
Henry Hatch, Alex McLoud,
F. H. Moshier, Wm. D. Snyder,
U. J. Tutt, S. D. Patten,
G. V. Lathrop, A. W. Worm,
O. Stresley, John Altman,
J. Bonette, A. B. Jenison,
N. Purdy, L. D. Sanborn,
F. Drake, J. S. Haggett,
Chas. Kingman, Joshua H. Lewis,
W. Taylor, H. E. Arnold,
C. A. Fitch, L. J. Spencer,
F. Long, B. B. Gray,
Mark W. Haviland, B. B. Painter,
John Morrow, P. W. Shearer,
H. Kingman, James McFadden,
I. E. Ellison, J. H. Anderson,
M. C. Thaderson, or Shaderson,
A. Ramsey, J. E. Parker,
J. W. Shearer, John Taylor,
J. L. O'Donnell, T. Campbell,
J. W. Doyle, F. A. Sloss,
I. N. Boswick, S. Conkey,
S. S. Smith, C. Hall,
W. C. Taylor, Antonio Storff,
J. M. Painter, C. T. Emerson,
A detachment was immediately sent out to trail the murderers, and find out if possible, to what tribe they belonged. Under date of January 24th, Lieut. U. J. Tutt reported to the Governor that they had been tracked into the Pah-Ute camp. On the twenty-eighth of the same month, two Commissioners were appointed by the Governor to visit Winnemucca, the chief of that tribe, and demand the murderers in accordance with a treaty previously made with him, providing for an emergency like this. The following is a copy of their report:—
SUSANVILLE, February 11, A. D. 1860.
YOUR EXCELLENCY: We, the undersigned, your Commissioners, appointed January 28, A. D. 1860, to proceed to the camp of the Pah-Ute tribe of Indians, respectfully report that we proceeded across the country from this place in the direction of Pyramid Lake; that on the third day of our travel, we were met by a band of about (30) thirty Pah-Ute
INDIANS, AND THEIR WARS IN NEVADA. 149
Indians, well mounted, who, with a war-whoop, surrounded us and prevented us from proceeding to the main camp. We were detained over night by the same party of Indians, under a strict guard, the said Indians utterly refusing to give us any information as to the whereabouts of their chiefs.
On the following morning, we were released from imprisonment, and ordered to return to Honey Lake Valley. We traveled two or three miles in the direction of Honey Lake Valley, there being a dense fog, we came to the determination to travel across the country to the crossing of the Truckee River, and follow down said river to Pyramid Lake. Arriving at Pyramid Lake, we found an encampment of the Pah-Utes; but, from the contradictory reports received from the said Indians, we were unable to ascertain where either of the chiefs could be found. We then traveled down the lake about ten miles, and found another encampment, which proved to be the camp of Winnemucca, the war chief of the PahUtes. We represented to the chief that we were sent to them by the whites, to ask of the chiefs the delivery of the murderer, or murderers, of Mr. D. E. Demming, in accordance with a treaty made and entered into between the Pah-Utes and the citizens of Honey Lake Valley, at the same time inviting the chief to return with us and settle our difficulties amicably.
The chief acknowleged that, according to said treaty, we were warranted in making the demand; but, after making many excuses, he not only refused to come to Honey Lake Valley, but refused to interpose his authority in preventing depredations upon the whites on the part of his followers. We then asked him to appoint some future time to visit us. He said that he would not come at all, and that the citizens of Honey Lake Valley must pay him $16,000 for Honey Lake Valley. We have ascertained that he is at this time levying blackmail by demanding from one to two beeves per week from the herders of stock, there being two or three thousand head of stock in his immediate vicinity, herded by so few that they dare not refuse the demand. We find also, that the owners of said stock cannot drive them to the settlements from the great depth of snow between Pyramid Lake and Honey Lake, Washoe and Carson Valleys. We believe that the Pah-Utes are determined to rob and murder as many of our citizens as they can, more especially our citizens upon the borders.
Finding it impossible to bring the Indians to any terms of peace, notwithstanding the advantages offered them, we determined to return as speedily"' as possible, and make this our report to your Excellency.
T. J. HARVEY.
It will be observed that the report of the Commissioners was dated February 11, 1860. On the next day, Governor Roop asked assistance from the General commanding the Pacific Department, in language that so thoroughly explains the position of affairs in that part of the country, that we give the document in full:—
GENERAL CLARKE, U. S. A.,
Commander of the Pacific Department.
SIR: We are about to be plunged into a bloody and protracted war with the Pah-Ute Indians. Within the last nine months there have been seven of our citizens murdered by the Indians. Up to the last murder we were unable to fasten these depredations on any particular tribe, but always believed it was the Pah-Utes, yet did not wish to blame them until we were sure of the facts. On the thirteenth day of last month, Mr. Dexter E. Demming was most brutally murdered at his own house, and plundered of everything, and his horses driven off. As soon as I was informed of the fact I at once sent out fifteen men after the murderers (there being snow on the ground they could be easily traced), with orders to follow on their tracks until they would find what tribe they belonged to; and if they would prove to be Pah-Utes, not to give them battle, but to return and report, as we had, some two years ago, made a treaty with the Pah-Utes, one of the stipulations being that if any of their tribe committed any murders or depredations on any of the whites, we were first to go to the chiefs and that they would deliver up the murderers or make redress, and that we were to do the same on our part with them. On the third day out they came onto the Indians and found them to be Pah-Utes, to which I call your attention to the paper marked A. Immediately on receiving this report, and agreeable to the said treaty, I sent Capt. William Weatherlow and Thomas J. Harvey, as Commissioners, to proceed to the Pah-Utes' headquarters, and there inform the chief of this murder and demand redress. Here allow me to call your attention to the paper marked B. It is now pretty well an established fact that the Pah-Utes killed those eight men, one of them being Mr. Peter Lassen. How soon others must fall is not known, for war is now inevitable. We have but few good arms and but little ammunition.
Therefore, I would most respectfully call upon you for a company of dragoons to come to our aid at once, as it may save a ruinous war to show them that we have other help besides our own citizens, they knowing our weakness. And if it is not in your power at present to dispatch a company of men here, I do most respectfully demand of you arms and ammunition, with a field-piece to drive them out of their forts. A four or six-pounder is indispensable in fighting the Pah-Utes. We have no Indian Agent to call on, so it is to you we look for assistance.
I remain your humble servant,
Governor of Nevada Territory.
SUSANVILLE, February 12, 1860.
P. S.--Sir: If you should forward to us arms, ammunition, etc., I hereby appoint Col. I. H. Lewis to receive and receipt for and bring them here at once.
The foregoing indicates, with sufficient clearness, that the accumulated hostility between the two races had reached that point where it required but a spark to cause it to burst forth into a fierce war flame. The Commanding General sent no troops and furnished no arms; and it all terminated in that sanguinary outbreak, in the following May, that resulted so disastrously to both Indians and whites.
INDIAN ACCOUNT OF THE WAR OF 1860.
The defeat and massacre of the party, usually known as the "Ormsby party," on the 12th of May, 1860, sent a thrill of horror throughout the Pacific Coast, and to this day is regarded as one of the most important events in the early history of the State. Happening, as it did, anterior to the great war of the Rebellion, the people were unaccustomed
150 HISTORY OF THE STATE OF NEVADA.
to tales of battle and bloodshed; the slaughter of great numbers of relatives, friends and neighbors, and the conflicts, movements and losses which at a later date would have seemed trifling, then had a terrible effect, and left a lasting impression. The publishers of this work, desiring the most minute particulars of this most important Indian war of Nevada, in the latter part of 1880 dispatched one of their corps of writers to thoroughly examine the ground and interview all whites and Indians who could be found who had participated in the fatal battle. In company with the Acting Indian Agent, Maj. W. H. H. Wasson, he visited the Pyramid Lake Reservation, obtained an interpreter, a Pah-Ute named George Quip, who spoke the English language fluently, and with numerous veteran savages traversed the battle-ground, spending three days in the examination. The Indians were assured that whatever statement they should make would never be used against them, and with such assurances they gave a detailed account of the whole affair.
It was a strange assemblage, of those old braves, each narrating what he had done, and seen, of that bloody record of 1860. Each Indian would recount his own experience and observation; but when asked concerning anything beyond that, would say : "Me no see 'um mebe ____ tell you 'bout that;" and the party designated would be sent for, if not present, and the story would go on. On the third day we rode over the battle-field and trail from Pyramid Lake to Wadsworth, a distance of eighteen miles, accompanied by some of them. As we came to a place where a white man bad been killed, or some special event worthy of note had transpired, they would stop, and, in their peculiarly slow, dreamy way, tell the event, or describe the death struggle. Their speech was accompanied by gesticulations, and movements of the body, conveying to the looker-on a knowledge of what had transpired there in all its tragic detail before the interpreter had opened his lips. In this manner those events, that before had remained a secret between the slayer and his dead, were revealed.
In the latter part of April, 1860, the Pah-Utes congregated at Pyramid Lake from all over the extensive territory, for the purpose of holding a council. The object of the gathering was to decide what they should do, in view of the fact that the whites were rapidly encroaching upon their lands; killing their game ; and cutting down their orchards. [Thus referring to the pine-nut trees.] By the first of May they were nearly all in at the rendezvous.
There was a Shoshone chief there with his band who had married a Pah-Ute squaw; he was for war; and his Indian name was Qu-da-zo-bo-eat. A few years later he was killed near Battle Mountain, by members of his own tribe, after his return from a raid into Paradise Valley. They killed him because he was all the time making trouble for them, by stealing stock from the whites. There was a chief from Powder River with his followers there, who was also for war. His name was Sa-wa-da-be-bo; he was a half Bannock and half Pah-Ute, and was killed by the whites some two years later. Wa-he, a brother of Old Winnemucca, was fierce for the conflict. He was afterwards killed by the Pah-Utes at Walker River, concerning which a more extended account is given elsewhere. Sa-a-ba, chief of the Smoke Creek Indians, was for war. He was a brother-in-law of Old Winnemucca, and was killed later by one of his own tribe, whom he was proposing to "Ho-do," or bewitch. No-jo-mud, chief of the Honey Lake Band, was for war. Some years later he was killed by his followers, who had become afraid of him, because of his continued active hostility to the whites, fearing that it would bring disaster upon them. Ho-zi-a, another Honey Lake leader, who was afterwards killed by Capt. Dick, their present chief, was also for war. Yur-dy, known as Joaquin by the whites, was for war. His band ranged in the vicinity of the big bend of the Carson River, and south toward Mason Valley. He is now dead. Ha-za-bok, a big medicine, and chief at Antelope Valley, now living, was for war. He proposed to supply the warriors with bullets, by changing their tobacco into lead; to cause the ground to open and swallow the whites; and to kill them with fierce storms of hail.
Se-quin-a-ta, a chief from the Black Rock country, was impatient for the strife to begin. He now lives at the Reservation, is a little man, and is known as Chiquito (little) Winnemucca. He was a man grown and remembers distinctly when Fremont camped at Pyramid Lake, on his way from Oregon through this country in January, 1844. It was this Indian that refused to obey Young Winnemucca; charging with his band past the latter as he waved back the Pah-Utes in a vain effort to obtain a peace talk with the Ormsby party, after the battle had opened. Moguan-no-ga was chief at the Humboldt Meadows; and was known to the whites as Captain Soo. He was for war, and was shot by his brother Bob, a few years later, receiving a wound that eventually resulted in his death. He was in command of the expedition whose acts precipitated the war, by the killing of the Williams brothers, and the burning of their station. Before his death, however, he became a strong friend of the whites, and rendered valuable assistance in breaking up the bands that kept up hostilities in Humboldt County for several years after the outbreak. His friendship for the whites was the cause of his death. He had been leading a company of soldiers into the Black Rock country, where they had killed a number of Pah-Utes. When he came back a cousin of his, named Captain John, wanted him to resign because of what he had done ; and expressed a determination of becoming the chief himself. Soo's brother Bob proposed to settle the matter by shooting both of them, and the one not killed, being the genuine medicine
INDIANS, AND THEIR WARS IN NEVADA. 151
man, ought of course to be chief. He accordingly "turned loose" on his brother first, and proved him to be "no good medicine;" but before he was ready for John, that worthy "blazed away," and fetched the would-be arbitrator to "grass." Bob eventually recovered; but, said our informant, "he heep sorry bime-by, 'cause he think he kill um both, and get to be chief himself" Old Winnemucca, whose Indian name is Po-i-to, was head captain over all, and medicine chief of the tribe. He held his own council, and declared neither for peace or war ; but was known to be in favor of the latter. He was a shrewd old politician, and knowing things were moving to suit him, kept still and let others assume the responsibility of acting.
NUMAGA'S EFFORT FOR PEACE.
Among all that assemblage of the Pah-Ute tribes there was one, and one only, among the chiefs, with sufficient sagacity to foresee the evils that would result to his people from war; one only who at the same time possessed the courage to throw his influence in opposition to their will, and declare for peace. The name of that warrior was Numaga; and be was called by the whites Young Winnemucca, the war chief. The word Numaga means the giver of food, the name indicating the disposition of its owner as being that of a generous man. Numaga was not, as the whites always supposed, the war chief of the Pah-Utes. There was but one general chief, and that was Poito, at Pyramid Lake.
Numaga was the chosen leader only of that branch of the tribe living upon the reservation, having no authority, and claiming none, in any other locality. Neither was he a relative of Poito, and the two were always unfriendly.
Numaga was an Indian statesman who possessed intellect, eloquence, and courage combined. He bad been among the whites in California, and could speak the English language; consequently, appreciated the superiority of the race with whom his people would make war. His power, outside of his own band, was that only of a superior mind, working, under the control of an absorbing wish, to better the condition of his race. They knew be was capable, they believed him to be sincere, and it resulted in giving him an influence more potent throughout the tribe than Poito's commands; consequently, the whites came to look upon him as the war chief, and he would have attained that position had be outlived Old Winnemucca, alias Poito.
Such was the man who threw himself with all his power into the council, to try, if possible, to stem the tide that had set for war. He rode from camp to camp, from family to family, friend to friend, reasoning, counseling and beseeching them not to precipitate a war, and bring destruction upon themselves. On every side he was met with a calm, respectful silence, that told as plainly as words could have done it, that all were against him. Then he went off by himself, and, lying, down, with his face to the ground would speak to no one. Without food, or drink, or motion, he lay there as one dead. The day passed and the night, another day and night, and the third found him as had the first, a motionless and silent mourner, brooding over the calamity that he saw threatening his people. This began to effect a reaction among the masses of the Pah-Utes, and the chief, seeing it, came to him and said: "Your skin is red, but your heart is white; go away and live among the pale-faces." Others came and said: "Get up or we will kill you;" and then he replied: "Do it if you wish, for I don't care to live."
At length the council met. Chief after chief rose and recounted the wrongs of his band and demanded war. After all had spoken, then Numaga, looking like the ghost of a dead Indian, walked into the circle, and for an hour poured forth such a torrent of eloquence as these warriors had never listened to before :—
"You would make war upon the whites," he said; "I ask you to pause and reflect. The white men are like the stars over your heads. You have wrongs, great wrongs, that rise up like those mountains before you; but can you, from the mountain tops, reach and blot out those stars ? Your enemies are like the sands in the bed of your rivers; when taken away they only give place for more to come and settle there. Could you defeat the whites in Nevada, from over the mountains in California would come to help them an army of white men that would cover your country like a blanket. What hope is there for the Pah-Ute ? From where is to come your guns, your powder, your lead, your dried meats to live upon, and hay to feed your ponies with while you carry on this war. Your enemies have all of these things, more than they can use. They will come like the sand in a whirlwind and drive you from your homes. You will be forced among the barren rocks of the north, where your ponies will die; where you will see the women and old men starve, and listen to the cries of your children for food. I love my people; let them live; and when their spirits shall be called to the Great Camp in the southern sky, let their bones rest where their fathers were buried."
As Numaga was thus making a last desperate effort to change the action of the chiefs, and was sending home conviction of its folly to their understanding, an Indian, upon a foam-flecked pony, dashed up to the council ground, and the speaker paused. The new-comer walked into the circle; and, pointing to the southeast, said: "Moguannoga, last night, with nine braves, burned Williams' station, on the Carson River, and killed four whites." Then Numaga, with a sad look in the direction that the warrior had pointed, replied: "There is no longer any use for counsel; we must prepare for war, for the soldiers will now come here to fight us."
152 HISTORY OF THE STATE OF NEVADA.
BURNING OF WILLIAMS' STATION.
On the seventh of May, 1860, the question was pending, and the great influence of Numaga had begun to make an impression in favor of a conference instead of a collision with the whites. A secret war party, numbering nine in all, had left camp unknown to that chief, under command of Captain Soo. They reached the Carson River about sundown, at the place where James O. Williams was keeping a station on the Overland Road, ten miles northeast of where Fort Churchill was afterwards built.
There are three of that war party now living, and one of them described the scene that followed:
Said he: "We get there 'bout night; sun little way' up; and leave ponies back, maybe half mile. Then we all go down to cabin, and three white men, come out. They look mighty scared, and talk beep to Captain Soo, and —"
"What did they say to them ?" we asked.
"Dunno ; talk heep. I no understand English then."
"Well, what did they do next ?"
"Bimeby one start off and run up the road towards Buckland's, and two Injin run after him, and bring him back. Then one, he run for the river, and me after him; he jump in, and me watch; bimeby he get half-way across maybe, then drown."
"Did you shoot him when he was swimming ?"
"No; nobody shoot him in water; maybe so, somebody shoot him 'fore that. He heep splatter water; no swim much. I know him drown purty soon; no use to shoot."
"While you were gone to the river what was done at the station ?"
"I no see that. They tell me white man draw a knife, and then one Injin grab him from behind, then two, three—maybe four—Indian grab him; then one take his arm and do so,* and break it, and that make him drop the knife; and then they throw him on the ground, and kill him."
"How did they kill him ?"
"They no tell me that. I dunno; maybe choke him."
"How did they kill the other man ?"
"Dunno. When I come back, four Injin hold him on the ground; then I go off down the river little ways, to find place to picket pony, and when I look back, see cabin on fire."
"Was it dark when they burned the station?" "No—purty near dark, though."
The narrator insisted that they found but three whites at the station. We said to him that five men were killed, and he asked:—
"How you know? "
Upon his being told that the information was from those who buried them, he replied that, "Maybe white man tell you heap of lies." Finally, he suggested that it was possible that two might have remained in the house concealed; who were suffocated and perished in the flames. The following are the names of the parties who were killed, and no one escaped from the place:
Oscar Williams, a married man, aged 33 years, and a native of Maine.
David Williams, a single man, aged 22 years, and a native of Maine.
Samuel Sullivan, a married man, aged 25 years, and a native of New York.
John Flemming, a single man, aged 25 years, and a native of New York.
"Dutch Phil" ; unknown name, age, and residence.
The Indians camped on the bottom around the place until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, and then started across the eight-mile desert for Buckland's station, intending to kill the owner, after whom it is named. They passed by the ranch of C. M. Davis without molesting him, and on arriving at daylight on the farm of W. H. Bloomfield, one of their number named ____, proposed to the band that they drive off the stock from the place and return to the lake without committing any further depredations. It now being daylight. and as a further advance would be attended by considerable risk, it was determined to follow this suggestion; and one of their number was sent in advance to report what they had been doing. It was the arrival upon the council ground at Pyramid Lake, of this messenger, that interrupted Numaga's speech.
"Why," we asked, "did you not kill C. M. Davis; he was much nearer to you than S. S. Buckland ?" "Davis," he replied, "purty good man; never abuse Ingin; no kill him. Buckland he heep bad; whip Ingin; scold Ingin; mighty cross all the time; we all say kill him, purty good."
On the evening of the massacre, the owner of the station, J. O. Williams, was camping a couple of miles further up the river, and thus escaped the fate of his brothers.
The next morning be returned, and finding his place a smouldering ruin, around which lay the bodies of his murdered kinsmen, he started for Virginia City.
Mr. Davis, with three other men, remained for several days at his place after the event before they knew what had transpired. When the news finally came to them, however, they started with their effects for Dayton, reaching Buckland's station the same evening—May 9th—that the Ormsby command arrived there, on its way to chastise the Indians.
DEMAND FOR VENGEANCE.
The news brought by Williams to Dayton, Silver City, and Virginia created an intense excitement, and couriers soon carried it, with added horrors, to all the outlying towns. Scattered over the whole country were little squads of prospectors and ranchers, whose isolated positions rendered them an easy
*The narrator here, by motion, indicated a twisting, backward wrenching of the arm.
INDIANS, AND THEIR WARS IN NEVADA. 153
prey to prowling bands of savages. Such were to be warned; and many a wild ride was taken by horsemen over secret mountain and valley trails to bear the notes of danger to a friend. In the whole country there was but one voice, and that went up from the whole people, for a swift and bloody retaliation—one that should strike terror to the heart of the Pah-Ute, and leave his country a tenantless waste. Detachments were organized for that purpose at Genoa, Carson, Silver and Virginia Cities; and on the ninth of May, 1860, they moved from the latter place to Buckland Station, on the Carson River, en route for the scene of the late massacre. On the tenth they arrived at Williams' Station, and buried three of the victims, and took a vote as to whether they should return or continue their march into the enemy's country. The vote was unanimous for the advance, and they proceeded to the Truckee River, and camped on the night of the eleventh of May at the place where the town of Wadsworth is now located.
VOLUNTEERS FOR THE EXPEDITION.
On the opposite bank of the river was standing at the time a log cabin, in which were five men who had been besieged for several days by the Indians. On the Sunday prior to the massacre they had, with three others, been hunting at Pyramid Lake, where they were attacked and three of their number killed. The five, having made their escape, had since found refuge in that cabin. They were ferried, on a log drawn by lariats, across the river, and joined the expedition on foot.
Let us now take a glance at this force that found, itself in a hostile country, intent upon chastising an enemy that they must have known greatly out-numbered them. There were four detachments, numbering 105 men, nominally under the command: of officers selected for their general reputation as being courageous men. The Genoa squad was under the orders of Thomas F. Condon, Jr.; Major Ormsby was leader of the detachment from Carson City; Richard Watkins was in charge of the Silver City force; and Archie McDonald was Captain of those from Virginia City. No one was selected to the chief command, although its necessity was strongly urged by Major Ormsby, J. Gatewood, and others; and they went into the fight without a leader, although Major Ormsby is usually regarded as having been the commander. It was a heterogeneous mixture of independent elements, poorly armed, without discipline; and they did not believe that the Indians would fight. A few of them would not have been of the party had they contemplated serious trouble, but in the main they were boys and men who would have made a heroic defense if properly handled. What they lacked most was discipline, and a leader in whom they bad entire confidence, and who had authority to enforce his commands. In the absence of these last two essentials it would have been better had they all been cowards. Many started on the expedition with the watchword of "An Indian for breakfast and a pony to ride," contemplating the pleasure of sacking Pah-Ute villages, capturing their squaws and ponies, killing a few warriors, and running the balance out of the country. There was another element there prompted by sentiments and urged forward by feelings that make the patriot, produces heroes, and often ends in martyrdom. Of this class Henry Meredith, Young Snowden, Spear, Headley, Eugene Angel, and the "Nameless Hero," were bright particular stars.
The following is as complete a list of that ill-fated party as we have been able to procure:—
Captain T. F. Condon, C. E. Kimball,
Michael Tay, Robert Riley, 'Big Texas,"
M. Pular, Lee James.
J. A. Thompson,
CARSON CITY RANGERS.
Major Wm. M. Ormsby, F. Shinn,
John L. Blackburn, James Gatewood,
Chris. Barnes, Frank Gilbert,
William S. Spear, C. Marley,
William Mason, John Holmes,
Richard Watkins Dr. Wm. E. Eichelroth,
Samuel Brown, James McIntyre,
Dr. Anton W. Tjader, ____ Lake,
And nine United States soldiers.
SILVER CITY GUARDS.
*Capt. R. G. Watkins, Keene Albert Bloom,
Chas. Evans, James Shabell,
James Lee, Anton Kauffman.
FROM VIRGINIA CITY.
Company No. 1.
Captain F. Johnston, F. J. Call,
____ McTerney, Hugh McLaughlin,
Charles McLeod, John Fleming (a Greek),
Henderson (a Greek), Andreas Schnald (Italian),
Marco Kuergerwaldt, John Gaventi George (a Chileno).
O. C. Steel,
COMPANY NO. 2.
Capt. Archie McDonald, Wm. Armington
Chas. W. Allen, G. F. Brown,
G. I. Baldwin, D. D. Cole,
A. K. Elliott, Chas. Forman,
A. L. Granis, F. Gatehouse,
F. Hawkins, Arch Haven,
J. C. Hall, George Jones
*Captain Watkins was a veteran of the Walker filibustering expedition to Nicaragua, where he lost a leg. Upon the organization of the party to punish the Indians he was invited to take command of a company, but declined on account of his crippled condition; but being told that some who had served under him in Nicaragua were anxious he should be their leader he consented. He possessed a. powerful horse, and in riding was strapped to the saddle. The Captain has written a vivid report of the march and battle, the principal points of which are incorporated in the account here given.
154 HISTORY OF THE STATE OF NEVADA.
R. Lawrence, Col. M. C. Vane,
Henry Meredith, H. McIntosh,
Pat McCourt, S. McNaughton,
Henry Newton, John Noyce,
A. I. Peck, Richard N. Snowden,
M. Spurr, O. Spurr,
COMPANY NOT KNOWN.
J. F. Johnson, N. A. Chandler,
G. Jonner, A. G. B. Hammond,
James McCarthy ____ Armstrong,
T. Kelley, ____ Galehousen
The next day the command continued its advance, moving to the north down the Truckee River. No resistance was met with until they had reached thee bottom-land, about one-half mile north of the present reservation building and within about two miles of the south end of Pyramid Lake.
Within about three and one-half miles of the lake the bottom-lands widen out, leaving a broad level stretch of meadow on both sides of the river, through which the stream shifts its bed more or less every year. There is a belt of large cottonwood trees with underbrush among them, skirting the stream through the entire distance. This meadow land is inclosed on the west by a mountain, and on the east by a wide stretch of comparatively level table-land that is elevated somewhat above the meadows. The point of contact between the two is sharp and well defined. The difference in elevation increases in the direction of Wadsworth until it terminates in a bank some fifty feet high, at the south end of the valley where the meadows narrow down to a few yards each side of the stream. At this south end the trail leading north passes down from the higher country into the lower, and runs on the east side of the river to the lake. Where this trail passes down into the valley is the south end of the battle-field; and the point of the last stand made by the Ormsby party.
AN AIMLESS CHARGE AND WILD RETREAT.
The whites had passed into this lowland and through it to the north about one and a half miles, when there suddenly appeared on an elevated point to their right front, just out of gunshot range, a band of Indians that apparently about equaled their own number. The order was given by Major Ormsby for the command to dismount and tighten the girths of their saddles. While this order was being executed, a man by the name of A. K. Elliott, who had a globe-sighted rifle, took several shots at the enemy with no visible results. The company then mounted, and the order was given to charge! and with a yell, about thirty of the party dashed up an easy grade, made by a wash, a little to the east of the enemy, on to the plateau where they found that the Indians had melted away from sight like a dissolving view. There seemed no place for them to go; but they were gone, and as before just out of rifle range appeared another scattered line of mounted Indians. Their right, as far as it was visible, rested on an elevated point, at the margin of the valley, while their left, stretching away to the east and south, formed a half circle. There seemed but few of them, but they were badly arranged for the comfort of the whites; a little stretching out of that left or southeast line would have inclosed them. In fact it looked as though they had charged through an open gate into an Indian corral. For a time it was doubtful whether the position of Ormsby's party was the result of accident or design ; but the uncertainty vanished as every sage-bush in front and on both flanks suddenly developed the hiding-place of a Pah-Ute; and a shower of bullets and arrows came hissing over their heads and among them. The very air trembled with the wild yell that followed the discharge, and many a poor fellow sitting on his horse there began to picture to himself the horrors he had read of that befell those who fell into the hands of a savage war party. The battle was lost to the whites in the next five minutes by a failure to promptly continue the aggressive, and thus give hope of success with which to occupy the mind, instead of a gradually growing fear and horror of falling wounded or otherwise into the hands of the Indians. Besides, the greater number of the party had lagged behind after observing the force of the enemy.
The volunteers who had charged remained upon the plateau possibly ten minutes ; doing nothing except to attend to frightened animals, and became thoroughly imbued with the belief that they were out-generaled and defeated. Some of the animals became so unmanageable that they bucked the revolvers out of their riders' holsters, and forced others to drop their guns. The time for a favorable result had passed, and then the retreat began in the effort to join their already flying comrades. The first move was toward the bottom to the west, to gain the shelter of the timber that came within two hundred yards of the plateau.
This was another mistake, for the shelter they sought was already the hiding-place of Chiquito Winnemucca's band, that made the Indian line continuous westerly to the river. This move left the enemy on the plateau with nothing to do but out-flank the whites by moving south on the upland and shoot down into the timber, occasionally, at pistol range, where the course of the river swept close into the east margin of the meadows. A number of them reinforced Chiquito Winnemucca in the timber where Numaga joined them; and as the Indians were pressing forward, he rushed in between them and the whites, waving back his followers in an attempt to obtain a parley. Chiquito Winnemucca refused to obey the order, and dashed by Numaga, followed by the entire yelling horde. The whites fell back, but through the personal exertions of two or three men, they formed again a few hundred yards away.
There was one member of Ormsby's party named William Headly, who from the first, until he was
INDIANS, AND THEIR WARS IN NEVADA. 155
killed, made himself constantly conspicuous. He was termed by the Indians the "White Brave," and was supposed by them to be in command.
Again and again members of the retreating force attempted to make a stand. About half a mile from where the battle opened, some tried to cross the river, but were swept back again to the shore they had started from. At this place now stands, on the upland overlooking the valley, an Indian school house, and the river approaches within fifty yards of the elevated point. Here a number of mounted Indians had congregated, and the whites, if they retreated further, were forced to run the gauntlet, the dread of which had caused some to attempt the passage of the surging stream. It had to be done, however, and the rush was made. One horse was killed in passing this point, its rider being among the last to give way before the onslaught of the band, led by Chiquito Winnemucca, that was constantly pressing them in the timber from the north. The horse in falling dashed his rider to the ground, who instantly sprang to his feet and turned upon the foe, wounding in the knee the assailant nearest to him, and then sank by his dead horse to the earth again riddled with arrows and bullets. His name was Eugene Angel, and his death was witnessed only by his slayers, who twenty years later described the death scene, and pointed out the spot where the bones of the brave man were buried. Three-quarters of a mile farther south, still in the bottom-lands, along the east bank of the river, another rally was made in a grove of cottonwood; and it was here that the chivalric young Meredith fell. In front of the grove to the north was an open space through which they had passed in falling back. Chiquito Winnemucca in his eagerness arrived upon this open ground in advance of his band, and rode alone out into it, in pursuit of the whites. As soon as he appeared the brave Headly, who had been lingering in the rear, turned upon the chief ; hatless, coatless, without a shot left he went for his enemy with the bridle reins in one hand and a revolver grasped by the barrel in the other, regardless of Winnemucca's weapons, he rode down upon him. The chief turned and back they went, pursuer and pursued, through the enemy's lines; when the heroic "White Brave" reeled in his saddle and fell to the ground, shot through the head from behind. His horse and weapons became the spoils of the Indian he had been pursuing. The grove where Ormsby's command was now making a last, and by some a desperate effort to stem the tide of defeat, was within less than a quarter of a mile of where the trail passed out of the meadows, up a steep bank about fifty feet, on to the table-lands above. If the Indians in force gained possession of this point of exit from the valley there was left, seemingly, no outlet for escape; and it was a position to be held at all hazards. Major Ormsby ordered Thomas F. Condon and Richard Watkins with their commands, to go and take possession of that place and hold it, which they did, although deserted by nearly all of their men as soon as the point was reached. Said Anton Kauffman, now of Humboldt County, who was a boy about sixteen years of age at the time: "The last I saw of the battle, and the bravest thing I ever saw, was Captain Watkins standing there on the trail, leaning on a crutch, and blazing away at the redskins. It's always been a mystery to me how he got away. He was the last white man I saw that day, or until the next morning, when I arrived at Buckland's Station." Mr. Kauffman was erroneously under the impression that Captain Watkins was defending the trail after the balance of the command had passed him in the retreat.
Thomas F. Condon started back to inform Major Ormsby of the critical condition of affairs on the trail; therefore let us follow him and see what had been transpiring at the front. The horse that Chiquito Winnemucca rode was shot under him, in the open space before described, as that warrior returned to the attack after Headly's death, and he had nothing to do with the massacre that afterwards occurred. The timber was within range of the heights, and bullets were constantly pattering against and whistling among the trees, from that direction. An old bed of the river, thickly covered with an undergrowth, connected the position of the whites with that of the Indians in the bottom, and afforded the latter a concealed route by which they could reach the already hard pressed command. Soon the woods were swarming again with the savages. Meredith went down under a mortal wound, and where his life-blood mingled with the soil, a bunch of wild roses sprang into life, to mark the place in after years where a hero had fallen. Again the whites gave way and the Indians in pressing, them out of the timber, discovered two secreted in the underbrush near where Meredith had been left. They passed on, however, in the pursuit, pretending not to have seen them, supposing they would remain there, hid until a more leisure opportunity presented itself, for attending to them. It was the last they saw of their reserved prisoners, the two men making their escape.
As the whites retreated from this their last cover, and went flying to the south to reach the upper country, they passed through a constant shower of deadly missiles, that greeted them from the bluff all along the meadow trail. Added to this was the thrilling war-cries of exultation going up from the hundreds that crowded upon their rear; and all combined to complete what had been so effectually begun—the total demoralization of the entire party. It was a wonder that such had not been the result long before, and the retreat became a wild, panic-stricken stampede. As the flying horsemen approached the place, where Watkins, like another Leonidas in the Pass of Thermopyle, was, single-handed, defending their line of retreat, death spread
156 HISTORY OF THE STATE OF NEVADA.
over them her somber wings and silently shadowed them all.
As the horsemen reached the point where the trail went up the steep bank, it was impossible for all to go at once; and the result was a halt for many, and an almost hand to hand conflict with the savages. One horse, with a fatal wound, dashed away to the west, and carried its rider to his death in the timber by the river bank. Two men passing to the right in climbing the heights by a more gradual ascent, went rolling with their horses fatally shot down the bank among their enemies. Young Snowden, as he reached the summit, fell from his horse and expired. A few rods farther on, just a little way to the south and west of the trail, another man threw up his hands with a despairing look, and laid down with his face to the ground, and died.
These were all, eight only, whose life-blood had thus far paid the penalty of the fatal mistakes of that terrible day. Eight only upon the field of battle had died facing the foe, as brave men, all of them, as any for whom history weaves its chaplets of fame.
As soon as the upper country was reached all thought of anything except escape was abandoned, and the fastest horses led the retreat. The unfortunate man whose animal gradually lost his position in the advance and fell to the rear, found himself slowly and with certainty slipping into the arms of death. It was an open country, a straight trail, and a terrible ride with a fearful stake that only speed could win. To lose it was swift, terrible and certain death. The pursuers in that race for life were constantly seizing the whites who had become the last among the flying band, and then would follow a quick, desperate struggle, and another was added to the number of the nameless dead. Two miles were thus passed, when the Indians, becoming more bold, one rode up behind a white man, and, throwing his right arm around him, lifted him out of the saddle and threw him upon the ground, while the horses were at full speed, where he was killed without offering any resistance.
This feat elicited such applause from the pursuers that it at once became popular, and the same thing was attempted with the next horseman reached. It was a different style of a fugitive this time, and as the. Indian threw his arm around his victim he was received with a pistol shot, and a desperate encounter ensued, side by side their horses flew over the country. As the riders grasped in each other's embrace, struggled for mastery, and fought for life; until, locked in a deadly embrace, they rolled from their winged battle-field into the trail. Lying upon the ground they fought and strove, rolling over and over, first one, then the other gaining a temporary advantage, until the Indian was throttled, and would have been strangled had not his comrades come to his assistance. It was a quickly ended contest then, and the brave Californian, Wm. S. Spear, was added to the list of those who were sacrificed that day.
A little further along, the trail runs close to a precipice, two hundred feet high, at the base of which flows the river. Upon the narrow space between the brink and the still higher bluff, an Indian rushed up to look at an apparently dead white man, when the corpse suddenly brought a revolver to bear and fired. The white man sprang to his feet, and, seizing the Pah-Ute, struggled as one mad to jump from the dizzy heights to certain death below, with the Indian in his embrace. His design was frustrated by the lookers-on, who ended the desperate combat by killing their comrade's antagonist, and rolling his body from the heights.
About seven or eight miles south from the battlefield a mountain comes down in one place to the east bank of the river. At this point there is a narrow neck of level ground through which the trail passes, and a short distance to the south of it passes down again on to a meadow by the river. The meadow, or bottom-land, is possibly a half mile long, and then the trail leads out into the high, open country again. At this narrow pass Major Ormsby had left on his way down a number of men, under command of a person named ____ Lake, with orders to hold the position and thus secure their line of retreat. They were posted on higher ground that overlooked the trail, and in a favorable position from where a dozen brave men could have held at bay for a short time a small army.
Here Ormsby had intended to have made a stand, if defeated at the lake, but as the leading fugitives came dashing down the trail the reserves deserted their post and joined them. Upon Ormsby's arrival at this point he found no nucleus around which to attempt a stand, and passed on with the balance. All were not so fortunate, however, for as the rear entered the narrow place their flight was retarded by their numbers. The Indians overtook them in force; rode in among them; beat with their hands, bows or guns, the horses of the fugitives over the heads, thus causing them to fall back further among their pursuers. In this way the leaders pressed forward to overtake horsemen farther in advance, leaving those passed to be dealt with by their followers, and crowded upon a number just as they were passing down the trail into the bottom-land just mentioned. At this point Ormsby's men received a volley that filled five nameless graves down near the banks of the Truckee River.
"What about the white men that you rode among in the narrow pass?" we inquired.
"White men," said our informant " all cry a heap; got no gun, throw um away; got no revolver, throw um away too; no want to fight any more now; all big scare just like cattle; run, run, cry, cry, heap cry, same as papoose; no want Injun to kill um any more; that's all."
But it was not all, for further questioning revealed the details of a scene that no artist could paint or pen portray. A scene where the victims, tortured
INDIANS, AND THEIR WARS IN NEVADA. 157
by fear into madness, rode among their slayers with outstretched arms, pleading and begging for life; crying in vain for mercy, while the jeering devils, flushed with victory and drunk with blood, laughed at their supplications, played for a time with their frenzy, and the ended their miseries.
DEATH OF MAJOR ORMSBY.
When Ormsby left the bottom where the battle had occurred, he was riding a mule that had been shot through the flank from where the blood would gush forth at every step. The Major was wounded in the mouth and both arms, which rendered him almost helpless, and as Captain Watkins dashed past him in the retreat to rally if possible some men to make another stand, he ordered Lieut. Cris. Barnes to remain behind with the wounded officer and whip the mule if possible into greater speed. Watkins finding that no one could be induced to attempt any farther resistance, soon returned to assist Ormsby and the Lieutenant.
As he reached them the Indians, who were crowding close in pursuit, fired upon the party and Barnes received a wound. What immediately followed is given in Captain Watkins own language, as taken from a letter from him upon this subject:—
"I then made up my mind that the fight was up, that I could do no more for the Major, but might save myself; so making a motion to Barnes to go, I said to Ormsby that I would try once more to rally the men. He replied that it would be of no use; but to look out for myself, as it was but a question of a few more minutes with him, and that all he now asked was strength to face the foe when he received his death shot. The Indians were gaining on us rapidly; one look at them and thought of self conquered valor, and the next moment, with a few parting words to Ormsby, I was on my way to Carson. * * * * * * As I was climbing up the third and last of the ravines, I overtook Big Sam. Brown, on his white mare, with Capt. John Blackburn on behind him, toiling up the hill."
Captain Watkins farther on took up a man behind him on his horse and carried him to safety.
The account of what followed his departure was obtained from the Indians.
The Major continued his retreat as he best could, and had reached the last little valley down by the river where the five men were killed by a volley from the savages as before mentioned. Here he was passed, by such of the whites, as had up to this time been following in his rear and engaging the attention of the pursuers in the manner before described.
At the point where the trail passes out from this last-mentioned little valley he was overtaken. This point is about half-way between the battle-ground and Wadsworth, and is at the place where a month later a detachment of United States soldiers under Captain Stewart, and volunteers under Col. Jack Hays defeated the Indians as a chastisement for their outrages. He was half-way up the trail when his saddle turned, throwing him upon the ground, and his mule wheeling towards the river went back. The Major got up and walked to the top of the steep grade; when looking back he recognized one of the Indians nearest to him in the pursuit, and instantly turned and started to meet them. He evidently supposed there was hope of his being spared, because of the friendly relations that heretofore had existed between him and the Pah-Ute that now confronted him. As he moved down to meet them he waved his hand, with the palm advanced, and said: "Don't kill me," — calling the Indian by name. "I am your friend, I'll go and talk with the whites and make peace." "No use now," replied the Indian, " too late," and be sent an arrow flying through the stomach and another through the face of his late friend, who, sinking to the ground, was rolled from the ridge dying into the gully below.
A NAMELESS HERO.
A little in advance of Major Ormsby on the trail were two parties, one from necessity and the other from choice, having been left with their leader, as their companions had passed on. N. A. Chandler was the name of one of the two who, being without a horse, was there against his will; and as he saw Ormsby ascend the hill and then turn back he darted off down a depression until it came to a precipitous terminus. Reaching this point, he took off his revolver, and, laying it down, sprang from the embankment and made his escape.
The other member of that forlorn hope was a young man, a mere boy in his teens, out of whose grey eyes looked the soul of a peerless hero. He was riding a good horse, but had lingered in the rear, and saw the Major thrown from his animal. He then stopped and dismounted in the trail, within twenty feet of where Ormsby stood, when he turned back to talk with his Indian friend. As that friend fired upon the Major, two other savages dashed past to make way with the youth at the top of the trail, possibly 100 feet away, expecting an unresisting victim. In this they were disappointed, for the brave lad sprang behind his horse, and with a revolver fired hastily at one of the two who were advancing, but without effect. One of the savages then rushed up to the opposite side of the animal, and the struggle went on with the horse between them, until their positions were so changed as to bring the youth in range of the gun of the disengaged Pah-Ute. This ended the combat, and the "nameless young hero" sank by the trail, where he was afterward buried and forgotten; and but for the enemy who killed him the noble act that resulted in his death would never have been known to his own race.*
*It has been erroneously stated that Richard Snowden was the name of this young man. Snowden's body was found several miles farther to the north.
158 HISTORY OF THE STATE OF NEVADA.
The cruel fate which quenched in oblivion the name and young life of this lad. leaves behind it for us a memory sadder than tears; a broken home circle somewhere in the world that kept fruitless watch through the years that followed for the return of the youth or the man, and never knew of the sublime act that, closing his life, had transformed their boy-hero into a martyr.
The next victims were Jones, McCarthy, and McLeod. They were overtaken in the open country, and made a desperate resistance, keeping the band at bay for some time with their revolvers, but finally were killed. The event was considered of sufficient importance to warrant a kind of war-dance, and there was a circular trail beaten around them, where their slayers had danced in joyous triumph, because of the death of two such desperate foes. While they were engaged in murdering these two men the sun went down, but they still continued their pursuit of the fleeing command, until reaching the place where Wadsworth now stands, it had become so dark that the pursued were enabled to hide away and elude the search.
Our guide accompanied us through to Wadsworth, stopping at each place where a white man had been slain to describe the death scene, until forty-six were pointed out. The Indians claim to have killed only that number, unless a few wounded, of which they have no knowledge, strayed away into the mountains and perished. They claim, however, that had the battle opened two hours earlier in the day there would not have been a white survivor. Their own loss by acknowledgment was three warriors wounded, and two horses killed.
Thus ended the Battle of Pyramid Lake, the most disastrous conflict to the white ever waged in what is now the State of Nevada.
EFFECTS OF THE DEFEAT.
On the morning of May 15th, after the disaster, the stragglers on foot commenced arriving at Buckland's Station, and on horseback at Dayton, Virginia, and the other towns in the valleys farther west, creating a panic of the most remarkable character that followed them wherever they went. The horror was flashed over the line to California, and in a few hours the massacre, with exaggerated generalities, had sounded its note of alarm for the Nevadans throughout the Pacific Coast.
At Virginia the women and children were placed in a partially completed stone building for safety, the structure being speedily converted into a fort. The place was called Fort Riley, and later the Virginia Hotel. The citizens organized, and sentinels were posted around the town.
At Silver City, a stone fort was built on the rocks overlooking Devil's Gate and the town, in which was mounted a cannon made of wood and hooped with iron, that was trained to rake the cañon below, and yawned with its cavernous mouth, portentious of an impending calamity to the Pah-Utes. After the war had ended a few citizens took that cannon back on the hill and fired it off with a slow match, thus demonstrating that the man who invented the thing had made a mistake in naming and locating it, as it proved to be an excellent torpedo, and a judicious point of location for its most approved work would have been in the center of a hostile village.
At Carson, the women and children were barricaded in the Penrod House, and the country around was picketed.
At Genoa, the only building suitable for defense was the stone cabin of Warren Wasson. He vacated the premises, and that night started alone for Carson, to find out why no telegraph message could be obtained from that place; it being feared that the Indians were between the two points and had cut the wires.
Arriving at Carson he found that the operator had paid no attention to the telegraph calls from Genoa, and that no Indians had thus far put in an appearance in either Carson or Eagle Valleys. He also found that a party was being organized, under Theodore Winters, to carry a dispatch from General Wright, of California, to a company of cavalry supposed to be at Honey Lake Valley, ordering that company to march at once for Carson.
Wasson volunteered to carry the message alone; and mounting a fleet, powerful horse, rode in fourteen hours through the enemy's country a distance of one hundred and ten miles to Honey Lake, without change of horse, or without seeing an Indian. He delivered the orders and the company moved south.