Major Bradford led Native Americans to island

June 07, 2007 12:00 am
Maj. Ward Bradford arrived in Crescent City in 1853 and bought land in Smith River Valley where there was a Native American village. When a war broke out, a group of roughnecks threatened to kill all of the Indian males on his land. Bradford obtained permission from Crescent City and moved all the Indians to the lighthouse island, where they remained until the end of hostilities. (Photo submitted by The Del Norte County Historical Society).
Maj. Ward Bradford arrived in Crescent City in 1853 and bought land in Smith River Valley where there was a Native American village. When a war broke out, a group of roughnecks threatened to kill all of the Indian males on his land. Bradford obtained permission from Crescent City and moved all the Indians to the lighthouse island, where they remained until the end of hostilities. (Photo submitted by The Del Norte County Historical Society).

Triplicate staff

The Del Norte County Historical Society book, "Crescent City and Del Norte County," credits Major Ward Bradford with leading Native Americans who lived in Smith River to a safe place at the island that would later host Battery Point lighthouse.

The move followed settlers' threats to kill Native American men who lived on the land that Bradford moved onto after arriving in Crescent City in 1853, according to the book.

But the approximately 250 Native Americans probably did not voluntarily want to spend much of 1856 on the small, rocky spot that lacked shelter, Tolowa members and historians have agreed. Tribal accounts point to reports of shootings of those who tried to escape. And an article from The Herald newspaper at the time mentions discussions about permanently removing them.

Then-Gov. J. Neely Johnson helped secure state aid to pay volunteers to fight Native Americans in the northern part of the state, according to information from the California State Military Museum Website.

Bradford listed expenses totaling about $75 worth of beef in expense information that volunteers submitted to Johnson for their work "to suppress Indian hostilities in Klamath County."

The Website notes accounts that describe the pioneers scouting through Smith River, shooting several Native American men, capturing a woman prisoner from whom they "obtained" information on the location of other Native Americans.

In 1857, Bradford would be elected an officer in the new Del Norte County, according to "Del Norte County," a book by A.J. Bledsoe. And in 1861, floods and storms would move buildings from their foundations on his land near the Smith River.