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Miner Risks Life to Fetch the Mail from Jacksonville

B. F. Miller wrote that one day in the spring of 1855 when he was with 100 or 200 other men at the Sterling Mine, eight miles from Jacksonville , they learned the Indians were holding a “skookum wa wa,” or meeting, and the miners should keep quiet during the night.

News soon reached the settlement of Sterling that an Indian war would involve the California, Oregon and Washington Territories.   Sterling, a town of a few stores and several saloons, changed its name to Sterlingville in 1879 when it got a post office. 

Daniel Kinney offered $10 to any man who would fetch the mail from Jacksonville.  Miller agreed to go because he needed money and wanted a letter.

Miller said that on the way he met a band of mounted warriors, “armed and painted in a frightful manner.”  They greeted him by name and Miller noticed one of them was Skookum Bill, who had been friendly with the miners.

The Indians allowed Miller to pass on the condition that he return alone from Jacksonville.  Miller kept his word, rejecting an offer of a military escort, and returned to Sterling without incident.


Source:  Royal, Thomas Fletcher, unpublished papers, Southern Oregon Historical Society MS161. Folder 3, Item 4, letter from B.F. Miller to Royal.

Pat Harper is the archivist for the Southern Oregon Historical Society, where she digitizes records, manages websites and learns more about regional history from the SOHS volunteers. After receiving her Master’s Degree in library science from the University of Illinois in 1980, Harper worked as a reference librarian, then as a library administrator. From 1994 to 2005, she was the Siskiyou County library director and lived in the country near Hornbrook, California.