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As It Was: Sailor Marries Indian Girl Who Rescued Him from Captors

In 1854, a northbound ship anchored offshore near the Chetco River on Oregon’s South Coast and sent three men ashore on a reconnaissance mission.  Hostile Indians captured them as they were surveying the area. An Indian boy and his 12-year-old sister, named Skamamahtra, or Prairie Flower, felt compassion for the men and helped them escape and hide nearby.

Meanwhile, the ship’s captain delayed departure, but considered the situation too dangerous to send a rescue party ashore.

One of the hidden men, named Schmidt, sent the Indian boy to the ship carrying the man’s cap with written instructions inside on how to rescue them.  The scheme went as planned and they returned to the ship.

A few years later, Schmidt returned to the Chetco.  Finding the tribe friendly, he asked to see the girl who had hidden him previously.  She was happy to see him and agreed to be married by Indian ritual. 

Legally married later, the Schmidts homesteaded property south of Gold Beach and raised 10 children.  His wife became known as the “Pocahontas of Curry County.”

Sources: Schroeder, Walt. Characters, Legends and Mysteries of Curry County, Oregon. Gold Beach, OR, Curry County Historical Society, 2007, pp. 260-261.

Excerpts from Curry County Echoes. Volume 1 ed., Gold Beach, Curry County Historical Society, 1978, pp. 35-36.

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Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.