Footprints: Settlers hang Indians for murder

March 02, 2007 12:00 am

Early in the morning of Nov. 1, 1854 a farmer named A. French set out with four other men on a hunting expedition.French was to guide them to an area 10-12 miles east of Crescent City. French planned to return to his ranch that evening while the others planned to return in three or four days.

The next day Mrs. French came to town because she was worried her husband had not returned as planned.

On Nov. 4, the other men returned and were alarmed to learn that French had never made it back to Crescent City. A search party was formed and made an intensive search of the area between Mill Creek and the South Fork of the Smith River, but no body was found.

Mass arrest

When the search party returned to Crescent City, they found the citizens in a complete state of anxiety. Many thought was that the Indians on the South Fork of the Smith River had murdered French. On the night of Nov. 4 a mass meeting was called of the citizens of the city which resulted in 20 men being appointed to round up all the Indians in town and the surrounding area for questioning.

An Indian woman living at the Indian village at what is now Battery Point related that she had been on her way to the woods in the area where the French party had traveled.

She had learned that a Chetco Indian named Narpa, accompanied by his sister, had traveled to the village at the mouth of the Klamath River, Rekwoi (Requa). Narpa had suffered injuries to his family and his tribe by the whites and wanted revenge. At Requa he asked Black Mahu (Mow) to kill a white man.

Black Mahu refused. He was known to be a good friend to the whites. The Chetco Indian then offered Black Mahu his sister if he would kill a white man. Supposedly Black Mahu couldn't refuse the offer of the woman and replied soon.

A new search party was organized and the body of French, was found laying under a log partly covered up. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Black Maku, his son Jim and Narpa, the Chetco Indian.

The three Indians were captured at the mouth of the Klamath River and taken to Crescent City on Nov. 17.

Unfair court

The next day many of the citizens of Crescent City assembled en mass at the Eldorado Saloon on Front Street, where a trial was set. The presiding judge was Judge Lynch, whose decisions were final and no appeal could be made. A jury of 12 men was selected.

By law the three defendants could not testify in their behalf or enter any evidence in their favor.

After an absence of one hour the jury returned with a verdict of "guilty" and sentenced the Indians to be hanged at noon Nov. 24, 1854, at noon.

On Nov. 24, the three Indians were taken to the hanging tree at what is now Battery Point.

Three ropes were tied to a limb of the tree and then the noose ends put around the necks of the Indians who were standing on a wagon. At noon the wagon was driven from under them.

Reach David Gray, a Del Norte Historical Society volunteer, at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it