History Sign: Conflict at Pistol River

History Sign: Conflict at Pistol River

This is Oregon History Sign, P22. Located roughly 10 miles south of Gold Beach, Oregon.

Pistol River is named after James Mace lost his pistol in the river during a skirmish in the Rogue River Indian Wars in 1853. The exact spot of this pistol dropping is unknown as far as I’ve been able to find.

“During the early 1850s hundreds of miners and settlers poured into southwest Oregon and onto Indian lands staking claims and establishing farms. The clash of cultural attitudes toward the ownership and use of natural resources led to the Rogue River Indian Wars of 1853-56. War came to the coast in March of 1856, when the “Tu-tu-tuni” attacked Ellensburg, a settlement at the mouth of the Rogue River (present-day Gold Beach). A party of 34 armed civilians, led by vigilante George H. Abbott, raced northward along the coast from Crescent City, California in advance of regular army troops dispatched to assist survivors who had assembled just north of Ellensburg at Fort Miner. Local “Chet-less-chun-dunn” villagers responded with armed resistance near this site holding the party at bay behind driftwood for several days until army troops arrived. This conflict led to the tracking and killing of those Indians who participated in the battle. A few “Chet-less-chun-dunne” still reside in communities along the Oregon and northern California coast.”

There is little other reference to this fight anywhere. The three main books I use for searching Oregon History are disappointingly mum about not only this battle specifically, but the Rogue River Indian Wars in general.

Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol 4, No1 states “On March 8th, 1856, Captain Abbott had a skirmish with the Chetco Indians at Pistol River. He lost several men. The Indians had his small force completely surrounded when Captain Ord and Captain Jones with one hundred and twelve regular troops came to his relief. They charged and drove the Indians away with heavy loss.”

It goes on about the entire War, but still in fairly general terms. Having been written in 1903, it’s possible that many readers were involved, or knew someone who was so more in-depth information is not needed. There are small bits of self righteousness included, but culturally, the White supremacy over Indians was pretty much a given at that time.

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