Sunday, July 27, 2008

Coquille & Bandon



By Dick Hancock

The Na-so-mah band of Native Americans lived near the site of the presentBullards Bridge and were generally a peaceable people but the arrival of the white man aroused problems. The encroachment on their lands and the subsequent decimation of game put pressures on their way of life. Where from time immemorial they had lived at peace with their environment; suddenly an entire new civilization was imposed on them. The results were tragic for them.

In 1851 a party led by Colonel T'Vault set out from Port Orford to establish a trail to the interior. After much inept wandering through the wilderness,they gave up the task and attempted to return to the coast via the Coquille River.They engaged an Indian to carry them in his canoe downriver and when about two miles above the mouth, they encountered a band of the Na-so-mah neart heir village just above present day Bandon. While attempting to go ashore, they were attacked and several of the soldiers were killed. Of the remaining men, two made their way to Port Orford and two others went north to the Umpqua. Mr. Parrish, the Indian Agent at Port Orford, with a group of soldiers went to the Coquille villages and met with the chiefs, who assured him of their willingness to be peaceful and a truce was negotiated that held for several years.

With the discovery of gold at Whiskey Run in 1853, miners flocked to the area and once more friction started. An Indian was found in possession of a horse that was identified as having been stolen. The mooring line on the ferry scow at Bullards was cut and accusations were made that the Indians did it.

On January 27th, 1854, the chiefs were asked to come to a meeting to explain about the various incidents. They refused and the twenty militia men at the ferry crossing called upon the miners at Whiskey Run for assistance. Twenty miners responded and were formed into three detachments. The next morning, at dawn, they attacked the three villages. The villagers, aroused from their sleep, put up little resistance and were gunned down as they attempted to flee. Fifteen men and one woman were killed outright. Two other women were gravely injured. Of the attackers, none received even the slightest wound. The houses in the villages were burned and the possessions either destroyed or captured.

In 1856, the remaining Indians were gathered on a temporary reservation at Port Orford, preparatory to being taken to the permanent reservation being established at Siletz. In Mid May, the Na-so-mah ran away, returning to their old home at the mouth of the Coquille. John Creighton took a band of men and, finding them at their old home village, attacked and claimed to have killed nineteen. The remainder were returned to Port Orford and soon taken to the new reservation.

Thus was closed that phase of history for a people who had inhabited the lower Coquille River area for untold generations. Five short years of tragedy for a proud and peaceful people.