The Lookout Lynching - Murder in Modoc

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Frank Hall showed fight and was beaten Into insensibility and dragged to his death with a rope around his neck. After hanging the Hall boys, Yantis nnd little Wilson, the mob returned to the i hotel, and. The bodies were cut down about noon on May 31 and taken to the A. W hall in Lookout, where an inquest was held, the jury returning a verdict that the men had come to their deaths at the hands of parties unknown to the jury.

Three of Coroner's Jury Accused On the jury were three of the men now confined in jail here, accused of being parties to the lynching. They are F. Trowbridge, Bob Leventon and Joe Leventon. Attorney General Tlrey L. The grand jury was in session when General Post and his assistant arrived In Alturas and the inquiry into the Lookout lynching was followed into such fruitful channels that the grand jury found indictments against Deputy Constable James W. Brown, Bob Leventon and Isom Fades. The men who were afterwards indicted for being implicated In the affair, and their friends.

Immediately commenced operations throughout Modoc county with a view to influencing public sentiment against the prosecution of the cases. Petitions, numerously signed, were sent to District Attorney Bonner requesting a dismissal of the Indictments against the accused man. Jetermlnation to bring the guilty parties to Justice.

Brown, Robert L. Leventon, J. J Potter, Claude Brown, A. Colburn A'illiam J. McDaniels, Henry Knox. Trowbridge, Orrin Trowbridge Fred Roberts. Harry Roberts, J- K Myers, justice of the peace. Lookou township; R. John W. A few days after Hutton made his confession, Claude Morris made a clear breast of his complicity in the lynchinj to General Post. On the strength of these confessions, which in the main detain were corroborative of each other, the grand Jury returned indictments agalns the men named, with the exception of the last eight mentioned.

Two :aj? The men saw some Indian tracks, but thought nothing of it. The men were anxious to get over the next little raise. When the first man on horse-back rode over the raise, he waved his hat in the air, turned his horse and galloped back, met the wagons and told them that he had just seen a big lake.

After they had been there a few minutes they pushed on, as the grass was not plentiful where they stopped.

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The train moved on until to- wards evening, and found a nice camp ground. This place is two miles south of the California and Oregon boundary line. The emigrants turned their horses and cattle loose to graze. They gathered dry sage-brush and built their campfire to prepare their evening meal, not knowing that the most of them never would prepare another meal. About one mile northeast of the emigrant camp was a small hill covered with black sage-brush and juniper trees. On that hill Legugyakes and his men were laughing and talking; joyful, for the prospects before them w r as an easy victory.

One runner had been sent to notify Capt. Jack's father that "many white people had stopped at Wa-ga-kan-na, this being the name of the place that the emigrants had camped at. Wa-ga-kan-na means, at the little canyon, in the Modoc language. He was going to help kill the white people that killed his people. Jack and some other boys were out from the camp playing. He saw the people astir in camp, so he ran to his father's lodge and asked his father what was the matter.

His father told him. The boy caught his father and told him not to go. He cried and begged for him not to join Legug- yakes. Do not lead your men to kill or help kill them poor people. They do not expect trouble. The white men will come here with more people than you have got, and kill us all. If you do what he wants you to do; that is, kill innocent people, we are all doomed.

Jack's father and Legugyakes met on the little hill and there sealed the lives of the poor emigrants. The white men dropped off one by one to their beds to dream about their new homes they intended to build for their families. The fires went out one by one. At last the last fire died out, which the Indians noticed with glee.

The emigrants had no guard out. They all slept the sound sleep of death. About midnight some of the emigrants' horses got scared and snorted. None of the whites took any notice of it. The Indians were just a short distance from their sleeping vic- tims. The dawn of daylight found the Indians within striking- distance.

They whispered to one another to lay down when it got good and light. One or two whites were up. They had just started the fires. All at once about fifteen Indians jumped at the white men, howling like wolves. The two men were struck down before they realized what was the matter. Nearly half of the white people were killed or wounded before they offered battle.

Some of them were half asleep when they were shot with poisoned arrows. At last the emigrants rallied. They got their guns and com- menced shooting. The Indians retreated, leaving their dead behind. The white man's aim was good. They decided to send two runners, one south, and the other north for help. Sometime in the afternoon the runners got back to their comrades with many more blood- thirsty savages. Men and women were all astir at the emigrant camp, caring for the wounded, digging trenches, etc.

The Indians renewed their attack about midnight, but were put to rout by the whites. Their aim was deadly. Soon as darkness was at hand the Indians commenced on the heart-stricken emigrants again. The white man's guns did not do any damage. All their shooting was guess-work. A few of the emigrants made their escape on horse-back in the forepart of the night. After midnight the rest of them made their escape. The first ones made their way towards Yreka, California; the others went towards Ashland, Oregon. The Indians charged the emigrant camp next morning at the break of day, but were surprised to find that their intended victims had got away.

Some of them said that none had escaped ; that they were all there dead. When it got good and light some of them found the tracks of their fleeing victims. None of them took up the trail ; they were too eager to loot. One Indian found a little girl ten or twelve years of age. He took her and said, "I will take this girl and care for her ; some day she can get among her kind of people; I will give her a chance.

Now I ask a favor of all you men: Do not kill her. They divided everything among themselves ; they set fire to the wagons and burnt them. They left the dead white people lay where they had fallen. They all took to the mountains: some going north, some south, and others east. The party that went north took the white girl along. After the party had gone about three miles the Indians got into a fight among themselves.

During the mix-up the white girl was killed accidentally. She was left under a big juniper tree. Two days after the massacre there was a few Indians on the big mountain that stands north of the outlet of Lost River, watching a heavy dust that was raising up like a mighty cloud. Some of the escaped emigrants had reached Yreka and given the news of the awful massacre.

The citizens took to arms and were ready to start for the scene in less time than it would take a man to walk two miles. The writer's father, Frank Riddle, was one of the men in this company. If my memory serves me right, it was in the year of The captain of the men was from Ohio. His name was Al. Woodruff halted his men on the north side of Lost River, dismounted them, and they had a few crackers and some dried meat to eat. Some of them filled their pipes and began to smoke.

Woodruff and Riddle were standing on some rocks about the middle of the river and were in earnest conversation for some time. Finally they both came ashore by stepping from rock to rock. He said, "There are some Indians around hereabouts that are peaceable. We do not want to kill anyone that does not need killing, white or black. I know that all the Indians that lives here- abouts did not take a hand in 'his massacre.

If they did, there would not have been one wh te person left to tell the yarn. By signs, they let the white men know that they had been up on Klamath Lake for nearly one moon. They knew nothing of the massacre. Woodruff moved on towards the scene of murder at ;i lively gait. When they reached Wa-ga-kan-na they dis- mounted.

The scene before their eyes was heart-breaking. Every man took his hat off. The men stood with their heads. When Woodruff spoke, the men raised their heads up, and every eye was wet. Some of the men's bodies shook with grief. They gathered the dead and laid them side by side in the trench, and covered them up, the best they could do under the circumstances. They were not disturbed during the night. The company took up the Indian trail the following morning and had not gone far when they found a little white girl dead under a juniper tree. Frank Riddle took his gray double blanket and wrapped it around the poor little girl's remains.

He and some of the other boys dug a shallow hole under the tree and covered her over the best they could. The company left the trail at this place, and started off west, reached little Klamath Lake that evening, camped over night, was on the road bright and early next morning, and met two or three bands of Hot Creek Indians.

The Indians took to the rock and brush. Woodruff went on like he did not see them, and reached Yreka, California, the following day. John Schpnchin, Modoc Sub-Chief. Indian name Skoncnes, meaning Stick-out-head. Photo by Heller, taken after he was captured. From the collection of Mr. John Daggett. The Modoc people were driven from place to place, after they left the mountains, and went back to Title Lake.

After they massacred the emigrants at Wa-ga-kan-na, they went to the mountains, and lived there for nearly two years.

Alexander “Alex” Courtright

They were the guilty parties. The Modocs that did not take a hand in the massacre continued to live in the valleys. The chief among them was Schonchin's father. The whites named the place where the massacre took place, Bloody Point. The massacre at Bloody Point did not stop the white emigrants from coming through the Modoc country. Every little while there would be an Indian killed. It went on thus for some time. No more whites were killed in the Modoc country; some emigrants being killed out in the Pitt River country right along.

When they got to Yreka they stated they were hunting Indians. There was a man by the name of Ben Wright who told them he would like to hunt Indians. The Oregon volunteers invited Wright to join them and go along; so Wright got some men that liked to hunt Indians to go with him. When they all got together they numbered over one hundred men. They all left Yreka some time in July to hunt down the Modoc Indians. They found some Hot Creek Indians, jumped onto them and killed a few. Wright was ths chosen captain of the company.

Wright traveled all through the Klamath Indian country, kill- ing Klamath Indians wherever he could find them. He went through Goose Lake country, killed Paiute Indians wherever he got a chance. In the fall he- went to Tule Lake and found some Indians. He did not attack them. He found one that could speak a little white man talk. He told that Indian that he was the Indians' friend. He or his men did not want to hurt any of them. He said he was a peace-maker. Said the Great Father had sent him to the Modoc country to make peace with the Indians.

He told them that he would go away tomorrow to get some things for the Indians to eat and then they would have a big talk. Ben Wright and his men made his word good with the Indians. They all left the following day. The Indian that had the talk with Wright spread the news among the Modocs and Rock Indians or Combutwaush that he had at last found a good friend.

A white man with many men had told him he would be back in three or four days with plenty to eat for the Indians while they talked to make peace. The word went from village to village of the big feast and intended council. Three days after Wright and his men had left the Natural Bridge, forty-five men and a few squaws was camped near the Natural Bridge waiting Wright's return.

They were anxious to be friends with the w r hite peo- ple, and the prospects were good for a big feast. On the fifth day from the day Wright had left, he and his men all returned ; all seemed to be very friendly with the Indians. They dis- mounted a short distance from the Indian camp.

While 'Wright's men were busy pitching tents, Wright walked over to the Indian camp. He told them he would like all the In- dians to move over near his camp. Said it would be much better when they would hold their council the next day, for if it kept raining they would be unable to hold an open council. We will have to get in my biggest tent ; we will keep dry. The Indians agreed to his wishes. Wright located the camp site for them.

He encamped them right on the bank of the river, where the river made a quick bend. Wright's camp was right back of the Indians' camp. They had the Indians hemmed in next to the river. The Natural Bridge was about half a mile southeast of this camp. The Indians were very happy. That evening they pulled up sage-brush and built wind-breaks and got tules and built shelters.

The Indians and whites were having a jolly good time that night, until near the midnight hour. After midnight, everything was quiet. The whole camp was in slumber. The Indians little thought that that evening would be the last they would enjoy on this earth ; their talk was, they were all glad that they had found a friend. Jack's father said he was tired dodging the whites. He seen a great future for his son and their people. Long before daylight, if any of the Indians had been on guard they could have seen Ben Wright's men all up and looking after their arms. They could have seen men making their way down the river towards the Natural Bridge, care- fully picking their way through the tall sage-brush.

A few minutes after these men had left their tents, about forty in number, the Indians could have seen these same men on the north bank of Lost River, opposite their own camp, fingering the triggers of their muskets, assured by their Captain Wright, that they would have a fine morning's sport. On the south bank of Lost River, where the two camps were, the rest of Wright's men were laying low behind their own tents, anxiously awaiting the brightness of morning to come.

The sky begins to fade in the east, it gets quite light. Ben Wright looks along his gun barrel; he turns slowly, around to his men and says, "It is not light enough; we will wait till it is good and light. I want to get every mother's son of them Injuns. Boys, don't spare the squaws; get them all! Jack's father raises his head; he tells his squaw it is day. I wonder why the white people are not up? Jack's father was the first one up. He looked to his bow and quiver.

It is still unstrung. All the rest of the Indians had unstrung their bows, because it was raining when they retired. When he got even with the tents, he met Wright face to face. Wright drew r his revolver and shot the Indian dead, and he yelled ; told his men to be tip and at them. The Indians all jumped to their feet, got their bows and offered fight, but could not do anything.

The whites shot them down so fast on the south bank, they jumped in the river, thinking if they could make the opposite bank, they possibly could make their escape. When they got about half way across, the whites on the north bank opened fire on them. Only five escaped; every one of them wounded; quite a few- squaws were killed.

Not a man on the w r hite side w r as hurt. After the Indians had been butchered, Wright ordered the camp to hustle. It was not long till the Wright men were all traveling towards Yreka, California, with all kinds of Indian scalps dangling from their shot pouches. The second night after Wright's arrival at Yreka, the citizens gave Wright and his men a big dance. Died at Quapaw Agency, I. Oklahoma , John Schonchin,i Sub- chief, loved by his people. Jack, though young and inexperienced as a leader, called a council.

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Told his people that through him, they, his people, would never be led in a trap and killed. They gathered all they could find and cremated them. They only recovered about half of the killed; the rest had sunk to the bottom of the river. Jack kept watch along the river for months and recovered a few more of the dead. Jack and his people dodged the white people for about two years. He never offered to kill any white people. He told his men that he wanted the white man as a friend, not as an enemy. Jack goes to Yreka, California, taking some of his men with him.

He finds a man in Yreka that tells him he will be his friend and help him and his people. He proved to be a true friend to Jack afterwards. He told them, "I know he meant what he said; we will live in peace from now on. I will go and see Rose- borough again soon; I w r ant to find some more men like Roseborough. He was welcomed by the whites at Yreka. He stayed in town five or six days. Steele, Pres. Dor- ris, and others. These men told Jack to live in peace in his iSpelled in Modoc as Skonches, meaning to go with head down or forward. Jack was a happy man when he and his men left Yreka.

Jack traded a pony for a lot of steel traps and it was not long till he was a very good trapper.

24-Oct-1901 › Page 9

His people went to Yreka every few days. After Jack's second trip to Yreka, along about the year of , the whites began to settle in Capt. Jack's country. Jack and his people lived near the Natural Bridge, on Lost River, on both sides of the river. They welcomed the settlers. They got along fine; the settlers gave the In- dians work, making juniper posts and rails, etc. The most of these people settled on the north side of the Tule Lake, from Frank Adams' horse ranch 2 around the lake east. They all had horses and cattle. The Indians never bothered the settlers, and were not bothered in return.

Abe Ball had a cabin near where the Clint Vanbrimer ranch is now. Ball and one Indian named Skukum Horse were chums. Skukum Horse would go and stay over night with Ball any time he felt like it. Ball always was glad to have him around. One evening Skukum Horse went to Ball's, tied his pony and gave him hay the same as usual, and went to the cabin and knocked. Ball opened the door, but refused to admit the Indian. They had some hot words. Ball sent Skukum Horse away from his cabin door on a trot by the point of a gun.

Ball had a visitor that evening. He did not want Skukum Horse to see who his visitor was. The visitor happened to be one of the Modoc's opposite sex. Ball and Skukum Horse met in a few days after they had the hot words. Ball wanted to explain things to his Indian friend- The Indian told him he could have told him who was with him that evening without getting so mad or threatening to shoot. One word brought on another. They had another fall- ing out. They became hated enemies as the time rolled by. Ball and Skukum Horse never showed friendship towards one another again.

The settlers kept coming into the Lost River country and made homes. The valley was named after him. The first man that lived in Poe Valley, Oregon, his name was Poe. Likewise the valley was named after him. The country was getting pretty well settled up. Ball and his friend had another falling out in the year Ball wrote to Capt. Knapp, the agent at Klamath agency, stating that the Modocs were getting unruly; that they were killing the settlers' cattle and demanding flour and other provisions from the settlers.

He was afraid that the Indians were pre- paring for war. He stated that the settlers were at the mercy of the savages. It was not long after Knapp got his first letter from Ball, he got another one from him stating that the Indians were giving war dances; stating that the bucks were getting bold, and there must be something done. He stated the settlers must be protected.

Knapp then wrote to the Indian office in Washington, D. Meacham, at that time of Salem, Oregon, was appointed Peace Commissioner by the government to go to the Modoc chief, Capt. Jack, and John Schonchin, sub-chief, and hold a peace conference with them. Meacham, I. The writer's father and mother, Frank and Tobey Riddle, were the interpreters. The writer, who was a small boy at that time, was present at the peace council. The peace council was well attended by the Modocs. They all agreed to go to Klamath Agency, Oregon, immediately, pro- viding that Peace Commissioner Meacham would promise to protect them from the Klamath Indians.

Meacham told them that they would be fully protected by Capt. Knapp, then agent for the Klamath Indians. Jack and Schonchin agreed to be ready to start with their people the next day for their new home on the Klamath reservation. Jack was ready with all his peo- ple for the journey. It took eight big government wagons with mule teams to haul the,Modoc women and their clothing, etc, up on the reservation. The point is known as Mocloc Point today, named on account of the Modocs being settled there in November, Jack in a few days had all his people well settled.

About the month of December he called on the Indian agent, Knapp, at the agency.

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He told the agent that he wanted chopping axes, cross-cut saws, wedges and maul rings. He said he wanted to put his men to work making rails, etc. Agent Knapp furnished Jack with what he asked for. Jack went home to the Modoc settlement happy. In a few days the Modoc men were working- like beavers. They made nine hun- dred pine rails in a very short time.

It commenced to snow. Jack told his men to quit for the winter, as it was bad weather ; but as soon as the w r eather would get good in the spring, they would commence making rails again. It only snowed a day or so and quit. The snow soon melted off. Jack concluded to commence work again. The Modocs went out one morning to work. Only split a few rails. Along came five or six Klamath Indians with their wagons and teams, and loading their wagons with the rails that Jack's men had made, drove out of sight in the timber.

Jack and his men did not stop work. Jack told his men that the Klamath Indians wanted to pick a fuss with him, but we shall not quarrel with them or fight them. If they come and load more rails in their wagons, I shall ask them w r ho gave them authority to haul away our rails. While he was talking thus to his men, the Klamath teams again came in sight. The wagons stopped at the rails again. The work of loading rails commenced by the Klamath Indians. Jack walked slowly over to where the Klamaths were busy. He asked one of the men who had told them to take away the rails. The Klamath Indian struck himself on the breast and said, "I did.

Jack, got all around him and took turn about and told him that was their country and all the timber belonged to them. One old Klamath man said to Capt. This is my land. You have got no business to cut my trees clown. This is not your country or land. The grass, water, fish, fowl, deer and everything else belong to me.

I will take all the rails or posts you and your men make. My agent will protect me and all my people. You, Capt. Jack, cannot help yourself. Tule Lake is your home. Go there and live, and do what you please. I think the agent will protect me - Bogus Charley, Modoc warrior. The reason he was called Bogus is, he was always telling jokes on the people.

He died on the train while en route to see his sister, at Walla Walla. He called his men together and told them what the Klamaths said to him. I do not want any of you to quarrel with these Klamaths. I think he will pro- tect us. Jack and Bogus Charley started immediately for the agency, a distance of about eight miles. On their arrival at the agent's, they were met by a crowd of Klamath Indians. The Klamaths taunted them; told them they were all cowards. Jack and Bogus Charley worked their way through the crowd and got into the Capt. Knapp, U.

Agent at the Klamath Reservation, served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was promoted twice for gal- lantry and meritorious services at the battle of Mission Ridge, Tennessee, and during the Atlanta campaign. Honorably discharged at his own request, returned to his home at Bellefontaine, Ohio, where he died April 16, By the kindness of the Rev.

Knapp was in. He asked Jack what he could do for him. Jack told him about making the rails, about the Klamaths hauling them away, and what the Klamaths had told him. He told the agent he did not want any trouble with the Klamaths. Knapp said to Jack, "Perhaps, if you move your peo- ple up Williamson River a few miles, the Klamaths will not bother you. Let your rails go, Jack, and move your people right away.

Leave everything with me. Jack thanked him. Jack and Bogus Charley got back to their settlement in the evening. Jack called a council that night. He explained everything to his sub-chief, John Schonchin, and his people. The two chiefs decided to move in a few days, which they did. The Modocs settled north five miles up the river from their first settlement at Modoc Point.


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They did not do any work of any kind the rest of the winter. The Klamath Indians visited with the Modocs frequently They got along tolerably well. The Klamaths and Moobcs all went back to their homes on the reservation in April. Jack and his men com- menced making rails again, near their new homes in May. Had only made three hundred when the Klamath Indians commenced to haul them off. Jack stopped his men. He told them that he and Bogus Charley would go and consult their agent.

They went and saw the agent. Jack told the agent what the Klamath people were doing. The agent replied : "You black son of a b ; d m your Heart; if you come and bother me any more with your complaints, I will put you where no one will ever bother you again. The appointment was made out and given to Leventon and Eades, but Mr. Bonner, a young lawyer and serving his first, term, made the fatal mistake of instructing Mr.

Auble to dismiss the charge of burglary and rearrest the men for petty larceny. During all this time the five men, two white men, the half-breed boy and the two Indians, were held under guard, the bar room of the hotel being used for the purpose. When it became known that the prisoners were merely to be prosecuted for the smaller crime, the whole country became aroused.

Both Yantes and the Halls made threats of dire vengeance upon those instrumental in their arrest.

They declared they would get even as soon as they were free. All knew the Indians and Yantes to be desperate men, and to turn them loose would be equivalent to applying the torch to their homes, if not the knife to their throats. Accordingly at the hour of on the morning of May 31st a rush was made by masked men, the prisoners taken from the guards and all five hung to the railing of the Pit River bridge. The news spread like wildfire and created intense excitement throughout the county and State.

The great papers, in two column headlines, told of the "wiping out of a whole family. In Modoc county the sentiment of nine-tenths of the people was that the leaders of the mob should be punished. Young Banner had made a mistake, due doubtless to youth and inexperience, but it remained for Superior Judge Harrington to make a still more serious one.

Judge Harrington wrote to the Attorney-General asking that detectives and a special prosecutor be sent to investigate and prosecute the case against the lynchers. He also called the Grand jury together in special session. But there never was any evidence. The Grand jury convened on June 10th, and a host of witnesses were in attendance. The result of the Grand Jury session was the returning of indictments against R. Leventon, Isom Eades and James Brown. As the case against Brown appeared to be the best, he was "brought to trial" November 21, The prisoner was defended by ex-Judge G.

Harris, E. Spencer and John E. Soon after the trial began Judge Post sent for a noted gunfighter named Danny Miller. And during all those weary three months of the trial he could be seen trotting around after Post, his mustache turned up, a la William of Germany, like a rat terrier following a mastiff, to the infinite amusement of the small boy and utter disgust of sensible men. Gibson, the noted San Francisco detective, was here, assisted by other detectives and a dozen or more local head hunters, who were after a share of the big reward. District Attorney Bonner was pushed aside and completely ignored.

He was not even given an insight into what was going on. In justice to Mr. Sturtevant I want to say that he had no hand in the high-handed measures adopted by Post and Harrington. And had he been in control the result of the Brown trial might have ended differently. Indeed, so favorably were the people of Modoc impressed with Mr. Sturtevant that members of both parties - prominent citizens - went to him and offered him the Superior Judgeship at the coming fall election.

For reasons of his own he declined, and before the end of the Brown trial left in disgust. At one stage of the proceedings there was talk of supplying troops from the National Guard to preserve order. And yet there had at no time been a breach of the peace or threats made except by the man Miller. On one occasion Miller drew a revolver in the court room and attempted to shoot Attorney Raker.

At another time he beat a young man named Russell over the head with a gun for some fancied offense. A brother of young Russell kept the principal hotel in the town, and both had been open in their denunciation of the lynchers. I mention these facts to show why it was that the citizens of the county turned from nine-tenths in favor of prosecuting the lynchers to the utmost limit, to nine-tenths the other way.

The young man and his wife were working, for their board, but he told Gibson that he knew nothing of the matter and that poor as he was he would not swear to a falsehood. Gibson went away, but returned a few nights, later and again tried to get him to testify, saying that the men were guilty and that no one would ever be the wiser. Slavin the young man's name then told Gibson that if he ever came to his home with such a proposal that he, Slavin, would shoot him like a dog.

All these attempts at bribery soon became known and filled citizens everywhere with consternation.


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