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Indians Greet Settlers at Future Home Site


After more than six months on the Oregon and Applegate trails, the William H. Riddle family faced some 100 curious Indian men, women and children as the family established permanent camp in Southern Oregon’s Cow Creek Valley.  The year was 1851 and the nearest settler was eight miles away and only four were within 25 miles.

The Indians crowded Mrs. Riddle and her daughters as they fired up a cook stove under a big oak tree.  One youth bumped into the hot stove pipe, jumped and whooped to “uproarious laughter” from the Indians.  Riddle and the tribe’s elderly Chief Miwaleta coaxed everyone to back off.  Mrs. Riddle offered Miwaleta a chair, but the chief preferred sitting on his blanket on the ground, where he rested his hand on the head of his grandson.

Riddle’s son, George W. Riddle, 11 years old at the time, recalled more than 60 years later, “My mother knew from that (gesture) that he was a good Indian.”  Riddle included the incident in his booklet titled History of Early Days in Oregon.

As it turned out, the Indians and the Riddles lived peacefully as good neighbors.

Source: Riddle, George W. History of Early Days in Oregon. Riddle, Ore.: Reprinted from the Oregon Enterprise, 1920. Print.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.