© 2024 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
Listen | Discover | Engage a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

As It Was: Russian Trapper Risks Life to Save Indian Captives

One of the most horrible incidents of the Rogue Indian wars of 1855-56 was the midnight slaughter of John Geisel and his three boys by knife-wielding Indians at their home near Gold Beach, Ore. The Indians burned the house and abducted Geisel’s wife, Christina, and two daughters, Mary, 13, and infant Annie. It’s a story that’s been told many times.Less known is the subsequent heroism of a Russian trapper, Charles Brown, and his Indian wife, Betsy.

Following the Geisel massacre, some 130 terrified men, women and children had sought safety at makeshift Fort Miner north of Gold Beach. Indians threatened to kill anyone who stepped outside.

When the fort commander asked for volunteers to free Christina and her girls, Brown and his wife stepped forward. Unarmed and carrying a white flag, they succeeded in negotiating the release of Christina and the infant in exchange for some blankets and an Indian hostage. The Indians kept Christina, but the Browns returned later and succeeded in freeing her.

The people in the fort issued a formal proclamation thanking Brown “for this voluntary risking of life … for the noble purpose of releasing said maiden from captivity.”

Sources: Dodge, Orville. Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties, Or. Salem, Ore.: Capital Printing Co., 1898. Web. 15 May 2015. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=mnEtAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA6; "Biography: Geisel Family." Curry County Historical Society. Curry County Historical Society, 2004. Web. 17 May 2015. <http://www.curryhistory.com/geisels.html>.

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.