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Border Wars or Indian Massacres
Volume Two Number Three

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Oregon Trail 1856

J. Beeson Pleas Case of Indians

The following two stories are extracts are from our front page. These two viewpoints existed side by side at the time. The editorial by Dryer was much longer and edited for size and the John Beeson quotes come from his book "Plea for the Indians."

All the papers in the Territories, and in Northern California, are urgent for war. Even the Christian Advocate gave its countenance; and such is the excitement and clamor against the Indians, that Gov. George Curry of Oregon Territory issued a proclamation of war, with a call for Volunteers to take the field immediately. The war spirit, in one form or another, took full possession of the minds of the people. All are absorbed with anticipations of the terrors, the perils and the excitements of savage warfare.

When it was known that Gen. Wool, commander of the Pacific forces, demurred, and even refused to participate, the most intense indignation was not only felt but generally expressed. No one seems to have been capable of perceiving such a thing as humanity in the case.

Men are roaming all over the Indian country, abusing and killing the unprotected natives, until terror and natural instinct compel them to unite for mutual aid and protection. For more than 50 years our people had traveled and trafficked all through the Indian country, and had met with general kindness and protection from the Natives. It was not until the Whites had become numerous, and grossly abusive, that the Indians, from necessity, resisted further aggressions.

Gov. Curry, forgetting that he had Constables, and Sheriffs and Citizens to enforce justice and preserve peace, forthwith summons the people to war; and for this effort to "humble" and make Indians "feel our power," millions of dollars are expected and claimed of the General Government. John Beeson, Rogue River Pioneer

War, At What Cost?

The Cayuse war broke out, caused by the most cruel butchery of the Whitman missionaries. A portion of the murderers were given up, tried, condemned and executed, agreeable to law. Next, the Rogue River or Southern Oregon war came as caused by constant depredations of Indian tribes who had made treaties and stipulated in them that in consideration of certain payments and annuities to them, they were to remain quiet and peaceable, and surrender the country to the general government.

Next, a general war broke out north, south, east and west, in which all the tribes engaged to a greater or less extent. The general government sent here a heavy regular force of the United States Army under command of Gen. Wool. A volunteer force was called into the field by the officers of the general government. In every important engagement with the Indians the volunteers overpowered and drove them back. The regulars have fought the enemy on several occasions, but have never yet thoroughly whipped them.

The war still exists. The general government, as carried out in Oregon, is all wrong. The Indians must first be whipped, thoroughly whipped, and then made to keep their treaties faithfully. The regular army were not sent out here, at the expense of millions of dollars to the general government of the United States to protect the Indians and fight the whites, but to protect the whites against the Indians.

The transportation, support, sustenance, and payment of the officers and men of the United States army in Oregon and Washington territories for the last six years, has cost the general government about $5 million, during which time we ask what have they done toward civilizing, christianizing or benefiting the Indians or protecting the whites? The Indian departments of Oregon and Washington territories, during the same time, have cost about $3 million. And, what has been done by that branch of the public service to protect, benefit, or advance the covenanted rights of the American settlers on this coast? Thomas J. Dryer, editor, The Weekly Oregonian


The stories above are extracts from the front page of this edition. The front page of our paper edition offers a larger dialog that should have taken place directly in 1856, but instead John Beeson fled his home in southern Oregon for fear of his life. No newspapers in the territory would give him space to air his views, so he sought support back East. His book was first published in 1859: "A Plea for the Indians" with the help he gathered while on a speaking tour.

Continue the Oregon Trail saga!

Read our Number Four of the series, Oregon Trail 1859 Oregon Territory Joins the Union.


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Bridget E. Smith, editor & publisher

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Historical Gazette
Published in Portland, Oregon
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