"One of the miners was killed outright and the others were wounded."

As written by Howard Black

Late in the fall of 1862 five men were prospecting up the south fork of the John Day river and on a stream now known as Murderers creek. They made camp under a projecting rock not far from the stream, not far from the road over the Blue mountains. The road was infrequently traveled by wagons or pack horses; the men knew this and having seen no sign of Indians they considered themselves safe.

One evening they retired, only to be awakened by the sharp crack of rifles and the thud of arrows coming from nearby rocks. One of the miners was killed outright and the others were wounded. Two struggled to the creek and down its bank for half a mile, when one, who had been wounded by a rifle ball, could go no farther. He lay down in a cluster of bushes close to the stream and died. The other pushed on to the Officer ranch where he died the following day.

During the following summer a party of emigrants, including G.I. Hazeltine, was camped near the place where the first victim died. While two of the girls belonging to the party were wandering along the creek one of them found a gold watch near a cluster of bushes. On further exploration they found the skeleton of a man, undoubtedly the murdered miner.

The two members of the prospecting party who had not fled down the stream escaped to a thicket of brush. They paused there to bandage the wounds of the younger of them, who had a severe wound in his side from a rifle ball and two other wounds from arrows. The older man had only a slight arrow wound.

They climbed painfully over the high bluffs on the east side of the south fork, hoping to make their way to Canyon City. The younger man prevailed upon his companion to leave him and try to save his own life, which the older man did with great reluctance. The older man reached Canyon City, but poison from the wound proved fatal to him. The young man struggled on alone and eventually reached town. With careful nursing, he recovered - the only member of the party to survive the murderous attack and its resulting wounds.

As told by Wayne Casey Stewart

The history of Murderer's Creek is that in 1863 an immigrant train coming from California to the gold mining camp in Canyon City, camped on the then - unnamed creek, about 40 miles southwest of Canyon City. There were two young girls in the party, recently married, one was Mrs. Emma Hazeltine, mother of Irving Hazeltine, and the other Christie Middlesworth, mother of Mrs. E.J. Bayley. The girls decided to go for a walk after the camp had been made, and walking across a small draw, discovered some strips of shirting tied on the willows bordering a trail that led up the draw. They followed the trail made by the strips of shirting tied on the willows and came upon a dead man who had been shot by the Indians but had lived long enough to escape into the brush, and had left a note telling what had happened to his small party of prospectors. There had originally been three in the party and they had made camp on the banks of this unknown stream, and gone to bed with their heads close under the high rimrock. The indians discovered them there and dropped rocks on their heads. Not killing the one outright, they had shot arrows into him as he fled up the draw where he had later had the presence of mind to leave the shirting and the note. In his note he requested that {the tree prospectors be given a Christian burial, and that whoever found his body should be given the gold dust that the prospectors had with them. The girls received the gold dust as a reward but later lost it in Canyon City when the head of the wagon train disappeared with this and other valuables belonging to that party of immigrants. The young women made this discovery very shortly after the massacre - the bodies were still able to be moved and buried.

1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved

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