The following preceeds Capt. Allen's account.

During the Bannock Indian war of 1878, during the month of June, reports began to reach Canyon City that hostile Bannocks and other Indians were likely to invade Grant county, and that the people of the county were in serious danger.

The situation became so serious that about June 23, 1878, a company of volunteers was organized and called the Grant County Home Guard, for the protection of Canyon City and the surrounding country and settlers from Indian depredations. Officers chosen were F. C. Sels, captain; James N. Clark, first lieutenant; Henry C. Guild, second lieutenant; and a man named Jacoby (first name not known(, sergeant and drillmaster.

After a few drills, on June 28, a detachment of the company, consisting of about 15 men, was sent to act as escort for a shipment of arms and ammunition reported to be on its way to Canyon City from Vancouver, Washington. They went down the John Day river to the south fork, then on to Spanish Gulch where they met the stage and learned that there were no arms or ammunition aboard. They were told, however, that a Mr. Gilenwater was on his way from The Dalles with ammunition.

Sheriff John Walsh and Henry Heppner went as far as Bridge creek, where they learned that Gilenwater had stopped at Antelope and turned back. they returned to Canyon City, where the rest of the party had already returned, and on their way warned some of the settlers and took some of the women and children to the city with them.

Great excitement had been created by the appearance of Indians. Buffalo Horn announced his intention to lead the Bannocks to war. The aid of the Paiutes on the Malheur was asked and given, and on June 29 the redskins appeared, several hundred strong, in the Strawberry range and the mountains to the east, with General Howard pursuing. The Bannocks and Paiutes followed the range to the westward, with troops in close pursuit.

On June 29 a detachment was ordered out, and while scouting they encountered the main body under Chief Eagan about 20 miles south of Dayville, near the head of Murderers creek.

Capt. J.W. Allen's Written Account

The following was written by J.W. Allen, captain of the detachment. He was the father of Harry Allen, to whom we are indebted for access to the handwritten report.

"We started from Dayville at 4 a.m. We went up the South Fork of the John Day river to Billy Stewart's ranch on Murderers creek about 30 miles from Dayville. There we saw the first signs of hostile Indians. They had torn the pillows up and scattered the feathers around the yard.

We got there about 1 p.m. We knew the Indians were not far off. We decided to wait and see if they would show up. We didn't have to wait long. The first that came in sight was one old squaw with a packhorse. In a few minutes another came in sight. In a short time warriors began to come in sight, some coming toward us and the others going to the left and right. They were going to try to surround us.

We rode a short distance back to a little higher ground and waited for the ones in the lead to come a little nearer. When the first one got about 300 yards from us, he shot at us. The bullet struck before it got to us. The next shot was fired by one of our company -- Joe Bates. By this time the hills seemed to be full of Indians.

We saw that there were too many for our small company of 14 men, so we decided to retreat. We had a long ride to make before we could find shelter, so we had to save our horses as much as we could so we decided to ride as fast as we could for a mile or so and then stop, get off our horses and shoot at the Indians to hold them back while our horses rested a little, then make another run.

The country we had to go over was low and rocky. We could see Indians on both sides and behind us. We had to keep the Indians from surrounding us or we would be lost. There was no shelter or water. We had not gone very far when one of our men was shot in the leg -- a flesh wound. I told him to go on ahead of us so he would not be in so much danger. His name was Mills Andrews. The next man that was shot was Al Aldrich. We had mad a stand and got on our horses to make another run. Him and I were the last to start. We had gone but a short distance when he pitched forward and fell off his horse, short in the back of the head and killed instantly.

I rode up to the next man and told him what had happened. We rode but a short distance when he said, "They have shot me in the back." When we stopped to make another stand, we found his wound not dangerous. His name was William Burnham. When we made our next run, his horse was shot in the fleshy part of the front leg."

When we had gone on ten or 12 miles, we had a steep hill to go down, known as Jackass hill. It was almost too steep to ride down. There the Indians gained on us. The bullets came thick and fast. About halfway down one man had the heel of his boot shot off.

Just as we got to the foot of the hill our lieutenant, J.N. Clark, was shot in the fleshy part of the arm next to the shoulder and his horse was shot. The horse fell on his leg so he could not get loose until Burnham and I pulled the horse around off him. We were then close to a little creek and brush. When our lieutenant got in the brush he told us to leave him, as the Indians would not follow him in the brush. He said he would follow the creek down to the South Fork and down to Dayville. The Indians did not follow us any further.

Some of the boys stopped at Dayville and some at the Murray brothers and some at the Jim Cummins place. Joe Bates and I went into Canyon City to report to our captain what had happened. We got to Canyon City at three o'clock. The Indians came on the John Day the next day after the fight and two men were wounded.

J.W. Allen, Captain"

Other men in the company were Casey Officer, Frank Aldrich, Oliver Aldrich, William Burnham, Henry Colby, Miles Andrews, J.W. Bates, John Clark, L.P. Davis, Joseph D. Combs and Fred (or Bert) Williams.

Joseph William Bates 26 Oct 1849 Louisiana - 5 May 1921, Prairie City OR

1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved

..... Return to Grant County, Oregon Home Page
..... Return to the Oregon - American Local History Network
..... Return to the - American Local History Network