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Historian Describes Massacre Leading to Rogue River War

Most historians trace the beginning of Southern Oregon’s Rogue Indian Wars to a massacre of peaceful Indians by white miners and other malcontents.

Historian Terrence O’Donnell details the incident in his book titled “An Arrow in the Earth.” He describes how militia Maj. J.A. Lupton and 40 Jacksonville men camped on Oct. 7, 1855, near present-day Eagle Point and not far from the Table Rock Reservation.  Two groups of Indians were camped nearby.

O’Donnell writes, “At daylight the next morning, the whites charged the camps and killed twenty-four Indians, 16 of them women and children and four old men.”  O’Donnell says that a severely wounded warrior lying on the ground, incapable of fleeing or fighting, managed to draw his bow with the sole of his foot and fire an arrow into Lupton’s chest, mortally wounding him.

O’Donnell says that at that moment “The Rogue River War had begun.”  Indians responded with merciless, brutal slayings of settlers along the river.

A few days after the attack, the Oregon territorial superintendent of Indian affairs, Joel Palmer, condemned it as a “wholesale butchery of defenseless women and children” of friendly bands of Indians living peacefully on the reservation.

Source: O'Donnell, Terence. An Arrow in the Earth. 2nd ed., Portland, Ore., Oregon Historical Society Press, 1992, pp. 216-19.

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.