Monday, May 11, 2009

The final installment...

This blog article ends the letter written by Josiah Osborn on April 7, 1848 and tells the aftermath of the massacre.

...The priest gave me a letter to the Bishop. All being ready, we started, the Indian leading the way, and made all haste to get back to my wife and children. When we came near, we commenced hunting, but could not find them, owing to the dark. We gave up the search until daylight; soon after, we found them, almost perished with hunger and thirst. The Indian got water, and I gave them bread; and in about ten minutes we began to get ready to start; being so near the Indians that had committed the murders, our guide was anxious to return. We started to go by the company's farm, and had got no more than two miles, where we got off at a creek, before we saw an Indian coming toward us; he came up with spped, and spoke very friendly to me, but told my Indian that he would kill me, and put his hand on his pistol. My Indian asked him if he was an old woman that he would kill an old man that was sick, with a sick wife and children? After they had talked for some time he replied that, as he never had shed blood, he would not; but said tell him to hurry and be gone, for the murderers will follow and kill him before he gets to the Umatilla. My Indian told me to hurry; we started, and the Indian followed close behind for some distance, and then left, and we soon got to the farm where we were to change horses. We were directed to stop here till night, but the Frenchman would not let us stay, for he said the Indians would be there before night. Here was the first fire that Margaret and two of the children had seen since Monday. We warmed a few minutes and started as though we would go to the bishop's. When we were out of sight we turned, and thought we would risk going to the fort. We went on as fast as we could, but soon after dark Margaret gave out, and had to be tied to the Indians back, but we got to the fort about ten o'clock. Mr. McBean helped us into an empty room, and we soon had a fire.

We had hardly got warm before McBean came to me, and wanted me to leave my family with him, and go down to the valley by myself, but I refused to leave the fort, and would not go; but God fed us here until Mr. Ogden came up from Fort Vancouver, and brought the women and children here. We had to spend one month among Roman Catholics and Indians, and fed for some time on meat, having but little bread; we helped to eat one horse, which gave my wife the dysentery.

Mr. Ogden one of the principal agents of the Hudson Bay Company, took us down to Oregon city. After we got to the city, John Law died, and we bured in the same grave with Alex Findley. I can say but little more about the massacre; we may say, however, that it was nothing but the hand of the Almighty God that delivered us out of the hands of these cruel savages.

The climate of Oregon is pleasant and healthy. Wheat is good here, so are vegetables. Father Courtney was killed by the falling of a tree. Putnam lost his wife with the camp fever. There is a call here for all finds of machinery. I am now building a saw and gristmill for Rees & Cottle. Jane and Lydia were married about new-year. Jane lost her husband this month, the rest are well.

Yours, &c. Josiah Osborn
The following links have more information on the massacre:
A WPA interview with Catherine (McHargue) Hume dated July 7, 1939 gives the following account:

"Perhaps the most historically notable persons buried in this cemetery were Josiah and Margaret Osborn. Margaret Osborn's grave is marked but Josiah Osborn's is not, but they are buried here close together, also I believe that there are two of their children buried there in unmarked graves. The Osborns first settled in my father's community about the year 1845. In 1847 Marcus Whitman hired Josiah Osborn to assist in building a mill at the Whitman mission. Osborn and his whole family were there at the time of the Whitman Massacre. All of the children were sick with the measles at the time and Mrs. Osborn was sick following a miscarriage in childbirth. I used to play with the Osborn children when I was small and knew the whole family well. Mrs. Osborn has often told me the story of the massacre.

"When the massacre began Josiah Osborn was at work outside and Mrs. Osborn and the children were all sick in the cabin. Josiah Osborn ran to the cabin and taking a single blanket and a loaf of bread he raised the loose boards of the floor and the whole family crept beneath. They stayed there all day, small children, sick children, sick mother and all. They heard all the terrible noise of the massacre, some of which took place just above them.

Mostly the small children were good but sometimes they would begin to cry and then Mrs. Osborn would quiet them as best she could, or if necessary smother their cries beneath their blanket. They stayed there until late into the next night and then Osborn crept out hoping to meet a friendly Indian who would help them to escape. They finally crept away and tried to make their way to Fort Walla Walla. They traveled for several days, sleeping without shelter during the daytime and traveling at night. These measles-sick parents and children had to ford cold flooded streams and then sleep in their wet clothes. It is a wonder that all of them did not die.

Finally they reached the fort but were denied entrance. Apparently the small force there so feared the Indians that they did not dare admit them for fear of angering the Indians. At last they were admitted and hidden in an inner room. Mrs. Osborn was so sick and think that her bones actually protruded through great sores where she lay on the hard floor. They were finally rescued and taken to Oregon City where one child died. Mrs. Osborn suffered for years from unhealable ulcers, the result of her hardships and exposure.

"I knew all of the Osborn children well. They had five girls and two boys. The boys were Alec and Wilson, the latter named after Rev. Wilson Blain, early Presbyterian preacher in this region. Then there was Nancy who was the baby at the time of the Whitman Massacre. After that there were twins, Narcissa and Louisa. Narcissa was named after the wife of Marcus Whitman.

The younger children were Malinda, Margaret and Merinda. Nancy later was rather well known as Nancy E. Jacobs, her married name. The Osborn claim was just east of my father's claim so that I naturally associated with the younger children almost every day. "


Judith Richards Shubert said...

What a gripping and heart-rending story. The Osborns were very fortunate that they lived though this massacre. What hardships our ancestors went through!

Judith Richards Shubert said...

I've left you an award, 2009 Friendly Blogger Award at my blog, Tennessee Memories. See you there!