Klamath reservation established after war

March 01, 2007 12:00 am

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

Following the war between American settlers and the rebellious Native American Red Caps,work soon began on buildings for an Indian Agency. The first two were weather-boarded houses at Kepel and Wau-Kell, near the Klamath River.

Because winter was coming at the time the order was given, making travel by sea dangerous, a survey was made of the coast from the Klamath to Crescent City as 1855 was nearing its end for a trail to be cut.

Past difficulties with Capt. Robert G. Buchanan and his hot temper prompted the man ordered to create the Agency, S.G. Whipple to ask that the company of soldiers still in his area not be subject to orders from Fort Humboldt. Thomas J. Henley, superintendent of Indian Affairs for California, wanted the men to be permanently as-signed to the Klamath, Reservation, however.

When Henley brought up the subject with Brig. Gen. John E. Wool, the commander of the Department of the Pacific, he was told that the detachment was being recalled because they had no quarters on the reservation.

Had nothing been done, Whipple would have been left with about 5,000 Indians who had recently "been hostile."

Whipple busied himself purchasing flour from a mill near Kepel, and directed his agent to ready gardens for the Indians to use for potatoes and other plants. He bought gardening tools for them, along with seeds and twine for fishing nets.

But Whipple resigned in 1856 and was replaced by Agent by James A. Patterson, who spent "considerable time" away from the Reservation to frequent saloons in Crescent City.

The nearby war on the Rogue River ended, and Whipple asked them to move to Wilson Creek. He promised them the government would subsist them until land could be cultivated and food grown. He also promised to reimburse them for their fisheries and 900 square miles of land with money paid to them in their currency, Ali-cachuck.

Patterson repudiated the agreement and the Tolowa returned to their rancherias on the Smith River and the coast north of Crescent City. In October 1856, Lt. Hezekiah Garder of the 4th Infantry concentrated them on Smith Island, where he issued them rations and clothing at the government's expense.

In January 1857, Patterson was found so drunk in Crescent City that he slept in his clothes in the bar of a local hotel. He continued drinking the next day and passed out in a local stable's stall. An investigationof his conduct ensued.

When the charges were substantiated, he was ordered removed, and replaced by V.E. Geiger. Geiger declined to accept the appointment, so Maj. H. P. Heintzelman was nominated as sub-agent and told to take charge of the Klamath River Reservation.

He was familiar with the Yurok and their problems. On his way from San Francisco to the Klamath, Heintzelman was told to relieve Patterson and take possession of all government property, papers and money in his charge.

Told of the plan to make the Klamath River Reservation self-sustaining, Heintzelman was also directed that until the gardens and farm could feed the Yurok, they would have to subsist on food available to them from the river, coast, and mountains. It didn't help that year that the fall salmon run was poor. Most of the Indians left to gather acorns in the mountains.

Unlike his predecessor, Heintzelman was industrious and "God-fearing." He prohibited liquor and gambling on the reservation, ordered his employees not to drink or co-habit with Indian women on pain of discharge.