is rare that one has the opportunity of speaking to one of the pioneers
of the country who has passed through one of the historic massacres of
the state and hears the story direct from the lips of one who has
suffered much at the hands of the bloodthirsty redskins.
Katherine Clay, a fragile little, brown eyed woman, about 65 years old,
now living at Meadows, Idaho, had the terrible experience of seeing her
husband and two men friends murdered before her eyes by the Indians, and
her three small children torn from her, when she was carried away by the
Indians. The horrible
experiences which she went through at this time, walking almost
constantly for 24 hours, carrying a babe, only to meet the Indians, from
whom she had been fleeing all this while, and then compelled to walk for
another six hours to reach a haven of safety, was enough to have either
killed or driven insane a less courageous and gritty woman.
Klein came over from Germany when a mere slip of a girl with relatives,
coming “round the Horn” and going, in the spirit of adventure, to
the Warren Diggins in north Idaho.
Here she married Mr. Osborn and after a short time spent at
Warren they sold out their interests and went to the Salmon River
country. It was while
living here on June 13, 1877, that Mrs. Osborn passed through the most
terrible experience of her life. They
were living at French Bar, what is now the town of Whitebird.
The men of the family, Mrs. Clay says, were out helping the
neighbors get in their hay when a messenger rode up and shouted that
four men had been reported killed by the Indians on Slate Creek, not far
away. The men were sent for
and Mr. Osborn and his mother-in-law, Harry Mason, commenced at once to
arrange to get the people of the surrounding country together at the
cabin of Old Man Baker, whose place was so built that it could be better
fortified than any other cabin in the vicinity.
Clay, then Mrs. Osborn, with her four children and Mrs. Walch, her
neighbor, with two children, started with three men, Mrs. Osborn, Mr.
Mason and a man known as Big George for the Baker cabin.
Having only three horses it was necessary that the children ride
and Mrs. Walch not being well, rode also, leaving Mrs. Osborn and the
three men to walk.
full of excitement, Mrs. Osborn darted ahead of the men all the way.
Arriving at a creek so deep that they had to all use the horses
to ford. Mrs. Osborn
crossed first, and just as she came to the fence surrounding the Baker
cabin, she spied the Indians. They
at once commenced to fire, aiming high up.
She sank to the ground and called to the rest of the party.
Her husband reaching her, she pulled him down, taking the
youngest child in her arms, saying: “We might as well die together.”
Believing it was their last moment on earth.
In telling the story Mrs. Osborn said, “The bullets were so
thick that they seemed like snow.”
Dropping down as they did in the midst of the willows surrounding
the Baker place, the Indians evidently lost sight of the party, for they
soon passed on to the Baker cabin.
waiting a time the party cautiously crept up the creek to a shallow spot
where they recrossed, this time on foot, the water coming up to the
waists of the women. It was
necessary for the men to make six trips across the creek before they got
the women and children all across.
They had but one gun with them, and at this time but two
cartridges left. One of the stray shots from the Indians’ rifles had hit the
little finger of Big George, who suffered intense pain. The little party had left home at 2 o’clock in the
afternoon and had walked almost continuously until 1 o’clock the next
morning. They reached Mt.
Idaho and, holding a council, concluded the safest thing would be to go
down to Lewiston in a boat. At
the store kept by Harry Mason, about a mile from the home of the Osborns,
which was only a short distance from the present town of Grangeville,
they knew they could get some boats.
Arriving at the store they found that the Indians had been there
and had stolen all of the whiskey and supplies.
They started up to the Osborn home to get some supplies to take
with them, and just as they reached the door of the cabin, Mrs. Osborne
called out, “Here they come!” She being behind the party at this time, hardly able to crawl
from fatigue and traveling in wet garments, caught sight of a band of 18
braves, winding down a hill some rods away.
the alarm given by Mrs. Osborn the party at once hurried into the cabin,
the women and children crawling under the bed.
NO sooner did the men bar the door than the Indians were upon
them and firing through the window, the first shot went directly through
the heart of Mr. Osborn, who fell over dead not two feet from his wife.
Other shots stunned both Mason and Big Frank, who was with the
party. The Indians then
started to burn the house setting fire to one corner.
women debated what they should do when they saw the fire, having,
apparently only two alternatives, that of being burned to death or
tortured to death. Just
then Big Frank, who had been stunned by the shot which he had received,
aroused himself and jumped on the bed to protect the defenseless women
just as the Indians broke the door open.
His brains were instantly blown out, and as Harry Mason raised
his head, he met the same fate. The two women and their six helpless children were thus left
to the mercy of the drink-crazed redskins.
telling of the horrible events of this awful day, Mrs. Osborne stated
that not a child whimpered, even when the shots were fired.
In spite of their long journey, through every obstacle, and even
going without food, they were absolutely quiet.
the door was burst open Chief Whitebird entered and assured the women
that he intended to spare them and the children, in spite of his
protests they were treated shamefully, the chief seeming to have no
influence over his braves. “ They started to ransack the house,”
says Mrs. Osborn and I was so nervous over all I had gone through that I
was pretty sassy, I guess, and Whitebird said, “You keep still; if you
don’t I can’t protect you.”
chief finally succeeded in getting the women and children out of the
house and they started for the home of Uncle John Woods, 12 miles away.
On the way they met a Mr. Shoemaker, who had originally started
with them in their flight from the Indians, but whom they had dropped
behind at some point. Putting
the youngest child of Mrs. Osborne on his back, he started ahead.
He arrived first at the Woods’ home, where both were known, and
was so stunned from the happenings of the day that he could not tell
anything, and taking the little 2 year old child on her lap, Mrs. Woods
learned from the babe’s lips the story of the awful tragedy.
“Papa shot dead, uncle dead, Indians shoot, Mama coming.”
Wood made out enough of the story to guess what had happened and her
husband at once sent out a friendly Indian with the one horse they had
to meet the party.
Osborn says that when she saw that friendly Indian, whom she had known
before, coming on Woods’ horse, she fainted away.
During all the horrors of the 24 hours she had kept her senses,
but now that aid was in sight, she fainted.
two families remained at the Woods home for six weeks when they went
again to Warrens’ diggings. Here
Mrs. Osborn supported herself and children taking in washing, the only
thing she was able to do, and at the time she weighed only 84 pounds,
until about a year and a half later when she married Mr. Clay, who died
17 years ago.
Clay has lived to rear six of her eight children, to give them all a
good education and to now enjoy her old age among her grandchildren. The terrible tragedy of that awful 13th of June,
1877, while still fresh in memory in its minutest detail, is now more
like a horrible drama which she witnessed, rather than an actual
happening of real life in which she played one of the star parts.
Her home for some years has been at Meadows. She says that during the last six years she has lot track of
Mrs. Walsh, her companion of the tragedy.