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Williams, Ore., Takes Name from Indian War Volunteer


Williams, Ore., started as a mining community in 1859.  It was first known as Williamsburg, after nearby Williams Creek.

The creek’s name refers to Captain Robert Williams, who was commander of the Althouse Mounted Volunteers during the Rogue River Indian Wars. The Volunteers was a group of 30 miners and settlers based in rural Josephine County near today’s Cave Junction who joined up on Aug. 24, 1853, with Williams as captain.

In November 1853, Williams became a colonel of a battalion of 280 Oregon Mounted Volunteers.  The same month he joined a campaign that attacked a group of 300 Indians who were camped in heavy brush on an island in the Rogue River.  When the Indians opened fire, Williams and his battalion retreated.  For the next few weeks, the soldiers repeatedly attempted to surround the Indians’ stronghold in the river.  But as winter approached and rain and snow made the area impassable, many of Williams’ volunteers wanted to go home, and Williams released them.

In January 1854, he applied to the adjutant general for fresh recruits and fresh horses in order to continue his campaign against the Rogue River Indians.

Sources:  Ruby, Robert H., and John A. Brown. Indians of the Pacific Northwest: A History. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1981. Web. 11 Sept. 2014; Victor, Francis F. The Early Indian Wars of Oregon. Google ebook ed. N.p.: F.C. Baker, 1894. Web. 12 Sept. 2014; Walling, Albert G. Illustrated History of Lane County, Oregon. Portland, Oregon: A. G. Walling Publishing Company, 1884. 225. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.

Amy Couture has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Oregon, a master’s in teacher education from Eastern Oregon University, and a master’s in history from Minnesota State University, Mankato.  A former teacher and cross-country coach, she is the author of 14 historical vignettes in the book, Astorians: Eccentric and Extraordinary.