Story of the Indian Uprising as Told By Mrs.
Contributed by: Deb Starr
Re-typed and entered by Penny Casey
Many years ago when I was a child I witnessed some of the
horrors of the Nez Perce uprising. We lived at the time at the mouth of White
Bird creek in Idaho County, Idaho. The district was sparsely settled, neighbors
being few and scattered.
Our family consisted of my father, Samuel Benedict; my mother, Isabella; my
brother Grant, now living in Grangeville; my sisters, Mary and Addie, and
myself. Grant and Mary were, at the time of which I write, attending school at
Mount Idaho. Addie, the baby, was little more than a year old.
It will not be necessary for me to give in detail the history of the Nez
Perces, as that has been published many times in histories of the state. Every
school child should be familiar with it.
Just prior to the opening of my story, Father had made his usual trip to
Mount Idaho and on returning had called on the Indian encampment at the lake on
Camas Prairie to make inquiry about the purchase of some ponies.
The Indians were holding a council of war, and Father was ordered to go home.
They said they were angry and were going to fight.
When Father was within three miles of home he was joined by Mox Mox, one of
the Blacktail Indians camped at the mouth of Chapman creek. (The Indians camped
at different locations, just as they chose.) Mox Mox came home with Father, was
given food, and after strolling around the yard, stood for several hours leaning
against the gate facing the house, frequently glancing at the road on one side
and the creek on the other.
Father kept a small store and as Indians were there nearly every day, nothing
was thought of their actions. Mox Mox finally rode away. Afterward, Mother
realized he had been planning the mode of attack. He was a fighting chief during
the war and after it was over changed his name to Yellow Bull, saying Mox Mox
bad Indian, Yellow Bull good Indian.
There was an old Indian whom we called "Old Fisherman" who lived
with the tribe. Father thought he must be close to 100 years old. He came to our
house every few days on his fishing jaunts up and down the creek. Mother always
gave him food, and he sometimes passed the night there.
He was not a Nez Perce and spoke a jargon and a few words of English. On his
last visit he came just after mid-day. We had eaten our dinner and Mother as
usual gave him a plate of food. He was sitting Indian fashion on the floor but
could not eat. He tried to tell Mother to go away.
"Take papoose and cla-ta-wa," he said, and made motions as of
shooting by holding his arms like a gun, saying boom, boom as he pointed to each
of us in turn.
Mother told him she couldnít understand. He remained that night at our
house and we never saw him again as he, with two or three others too old to
travel or to fight, were put out of the way before the journey. At least, so we
A few days later, on a beautiful June morning, we arose as usual and my
parents went about their work, little dreaming of the awful tragedy that would
forever darken out lives before the close of the day.
We had a few cattle and as our chore boy, Edgar Hall, had left us the
previous day, it fell to Father to look after the heard. Saddling a beautiful
gray pony he was ready to depart when, glancing up the trail, he saw three
Indians on horseback coming toward our house. He tied his horse at the gate and,
entering the yard, took a chair off the porch and sat down. He picked up a
newspaper and leaned back as though reading but in reality watching the Indians.
Soon they approached the gate and, after passing the usual greeting, asked
Father if they could travel the lower road Ė a cutoff around our garden fence
and under a bluff in low water. Being told it was impassable; they went on their
way seemingly up the river.
After their departure, Father told Mother he was going up the creek to look
after some cows with young calves and would be back soon. Mounting his horse he
rode away. How well I remember every detail of Fatherís movements as I was in
the yard with him all the time.
We had heard rumors of trouble all spring, and an Indian boy with whom we
played, told us the Indians would fight if they were forced to go on the
As the day wore on Mother began to feel worried at Fatherís absence.
Suddenly Mother came from the house and seemed excited. I ran to her and saw a
horseman approaching. I recognized Father and knew at once something was wrong.
He was riding a workhorse belonging to a neighbor, Mr. Baker who lived up the
creek. He was riding without saddle or bridle, and had removed his riding boots.
Mother was crying, and said: "Oh, Sam, what is the matter?" We
thought he had been bitten by a rattlesnake as the region was infested with
Father said, "Donít get excited, Belle. Those three Indians followed
and shot me and the horse, leaving me for dead. After they left, I managed to
mount the old horse which was near a rock, and he brought me home."
Mother assisted him into the house and to a cot in the dining room. I was
sent at once to a store about a mile down the river to summon help. The store
was owned by Mr. Brown. Some Frenchmen were there and one of them, John Doumecq,
accompanied me home and remained some time.
Mother, at Fatherís request, packed our best clothing and keepsakes in two
trunks, intending to have them buried.
Later in the day Mr. Brown called and said to Father, "The Indians must
have a grudge against you."
Father answered, " You may think they have one against you before the
day is over."
Mr. Brown, true to Fatherís predictions, found out before night that he,
too, was in trouble. When he heard the Indians approaching he and his wife and
brother-in-law escaped by crossing the river in a rowboat, after both men were
shot, one in the arm and one in the shoulder. His wife, lying in the bottom of
the boat, was not injured. Hidden in the timber on the mountain they were found
after several days and brought to the fort.
Mr. Doumecq went to his home across the river from our place, intending to
return with more men to spend the night at our place. As the men assembled by
Mr. Doumecq were about to return they heard the dreaded war cry and shooting and
knew they were too late.
It was then about six oíclock in the evening. I was playing in the
backyard, and our Chinese cook was washing some lettuce for supper when he heard
the Indians and yelled: "Hi-yu! Indians!"
I ran into the house and said to Father and Mother: "There are lots of
Mother ran to the bedroom and took baby sister from the bed where she had
been asleep. (Baby sister is now Mrs. Addie Brown of Bonners Ferry, Idaho)
The Indians were dismounting at the gate and as they came toward the house
were told to stay out by August Bacon who had grabbed a gun and shut the door.
The Indians answered with a volley of shots and Mr. Bacon fell to the sitting
room floor. He lay on his back, apparently dead. The Indians then entered the
room and one of them cut Mr. Baconís throat where he lay. Another took off his
cartridge belt, which was blood-soaked, and brought it into the kitchen where he
made me clean it off in the washbasin.
In the meantime, Father arose and, standing by the bedroom window looking
out, told Mother to take the children (myself and Addie) get out of the house. I
do not know how he got out of the building, but later I saw him in the yard
going toward the creek, followed by many Indians who were shooting at him and,
when I last saw him, he had gained the center of the creek.
Mother, with sister and I, left, going to the Manuel home, passing the Baker
place on the way. Mr. Bakerís body was lying near, face down, with many arrows
sticking out of his back. Just before reaching the Manuel home we were joined by
George Popham, Mrs. Manuelís father, who was coming from the pasture. He was
greatly excited, and said Jack Manuel, had been shot while trying to catch the
horses to take his family to safety. Mother implored Mr. Popham to try and reach
Mount Idaho and bring help, but he said: "My good woman, we would all be
murdered, and there is no use to go."
We proceeded to the house where we found Mrs. Manuel and the children sitting
on the step of the back porch. Raising her dress, Mrs. Manuel said: "Look,
Belle, what they did to me!" She exposed a deep cut on her knee. It was
paining her dreadfully, but when her father suggested going with him to bid her
husband goodbye she put her baby in Motherís arms and went, asking us to
remain until she returned. Darkness of the summer night was falling as they
returned to the house. More Indians were seen approaching and we immediately hid
in the brush near the creek on a low flat where we all spent the night,
expecting to be killed any minute.
Mother urged the men to build a litter and carry Mrs. Manuel to safely.
Instead they returned to the house in the morning, urging Mother to come with
them; but she refused and remained hidden all day, gradually working her way
through the brush to the end of the meadow. We heard "Hello" with
accompanying sounds as though some one were chopping wood and thought it was
Indians. It was Indians, we learned later, trying to decoy us to the house.
When night came on we resumed our journey. As we were about to proceed, a
horseman went by on a run and we heard shots, as we were at that time close to
the road. The shots went wild we afterward learned. The man on the horse was
William George who made good his escape from the bullets of the redskins.
Knowing there were Indians in that vicinity we were loathe to venture forth,
but Mother knew she to battle alone and, undaunted, pushed on, avoiding the road
as much as possible. When near the Theo. Swarts place we heard a bear near a
spring. I took a firmer hold on Motherís skirt saying "a bear is in our
way and we could not pass", but Mother did not hesitate. She said the bear
would not hurt us, it was the Indians she was afraid of. Leaving the road we
ascended a high point, keeping in the shadows whenever possible. When near the
top of the mountain Mother told me to sit down and hold the baby and not move
from there while she climbed to the top to locate the road and reconnoiter
before going on. Coming back, she called softly, fearing she might miss us in
the dark. After a short rest she retraced her steps up the mountain, carrying
the baby. With my hand in hers we went over the top and gained the shelter of
the brush beside the road. This was the old grade on the White Bird hill. Here
we remained the balance of that night and as day began to break we moved farther
up the road to a more sheltered position, knowing not what fate was in store for
Being very tired and hungry we tried to rest and I carried water in the one
little shoe baby sister had on when Mother took her from her nap the day the
Indians surrounded our home.
All day Saturday we remained hidden in the brush while the whole tribe of
Indians was passing by. They were hurrying their families from their camping
ground at the lake, now Tolo Lake, to the Salmon River, aiming to cross before
the soldiers came up with them. Rocks and earth from passing horses rolled near
and over us, but fortunately none hit us.
At daybreak Sunday, Mother thought she recognized white menís voices and
thought it might be that soldiers were following the Indians. Going to the road
she halted some of the men and asked for food and aid. We had not eaten since
Thursday noon; they gave us some biscuits, but said they could not spare any men
to pilot us to the settlement. They said a couple of friendly Indians who were
with them might take us, but Mother declined, saying she would wait until their
Little they, or we, knew of the deadly trap set for them. Those brave boys
were mostly Easterners, some of whom probably had never seen an Indian, rode
down into the narrow canyon of the White Bird thinking of daring deeds on the
battlefield. They knew nothing of the cunning of the redskins. Entrenched behind
rocks on either side, and at the foot of the canyon, the Indians were well
prepared to meet the oncoming soldiers, and when the troops reached a given
point mowed them down like grass before a scythe.
The soldiers who were not killed retreated up the canyon and when they
arrived where we were they forgot all about us in their mad rush to safety. They
galloped by, followed by riderless horses.
Had it not been for Charles Crooks, a friend who had joined the local
volunteers, we would have been left to the mercy of the Indians. As he reached
our hiding place he halted and said: "My God, men, you are not going to
leave this woman and her children here to be killed, are you?"
Then some of the men halted and took us with them. Mother was assisted to the
saddle by a Mr. Schour, who years later wrote the Lewiston Tribune for news of
Motherís mount was a cavalry horse from which a soldier had been shot and
she had difficulty in managing him. I was put up behind a soldier, and baby
sister was also given to one who later dropped her in the road where she was
found and picked up by a volunteer, William Coram. I was later given to John
We were carried to safety only to find, on reaching Mount Idaho that Mother
had not arrived. But sister and I were well cared for by some of the ladies
there, especially by Mrs. Aram, grandmother of Orrin Fitzgerald, of the
University of Idaho. Some insisted on feeding us abundantly, but wiser heads
said no, as we had had no food for three days except a few dry biscuits and some
wild gooseberries we found en route.
Edward W. Robie, a friend of the family who had spent the previous winter at
our home, after questioning me, immediately set out to find Mother. Guns were
scarce and he was advised to go to the Charles Horton ranch to borrow a gun as
Mr. Horton had not come into town and he was known to own a couple of good
rifles. When Mr. Robie reached the ranch house the dog would not let him enter
and he proceeded to the Hughes place. Later Mr. Horton was found murdered in his
home where the faithful dog was still keeping guard.
At the Hughes place Mr. Robie saw a woman in the field and knew at once it
must be Mother. She saw him, but thought he was an Indian and his behind a
haystack. When he called "Mrs. Benedictí several times she came out to
find a friend. Helping her mount his horse, Mr. Robie walked and led the animal
to Mount Idaho where she was reunited with her children who she never expected
to see again. She was cared for and given clothing by Mrs. Aram who dressed
Mother in clothes belonging to her daughters.
Regarding her part of the trip, Mother said she rode with the crowd until
near the Jarrett ranch when her saddle turned and she was left afoot and alone
on the prairie. She tried to find shelter in a clump of brush over a spring.
When three volunteers came by she begged them to take her, but they said they
couldnít as their horses were jaded and tow of the men were wounded. The
promised to send help. Knowing it useless to tarry there alone, she started
across the prairie on foot and was making good progress when she heard voices
and suddenly found herself surround by Indians. They had seen her and, to cut
off her flight, had separated into two long lines. They were led by Chief
Thinking her time had come, she stood as one petrified until the Indians rode
up. She was asked if she wanted to go back to White Bird. Her answer was
"No"; she wanted to go to her children. Her watch and other jewelry
were taken but when an Indian attempted to remove a ring from her finger Joseph
said, "No". One ring opened into several rings with a closing of
Orders were given by Chief Joseph and Mother was picked up and put on a horse
behind an Indian and the journey to White Bird was resumed. Enroute they met
some squaws who were following their warriors and doing their part by scalping
the poor wounded soldiers left on the battlefield.
Mother told the squaws she did not wish to return to White Bird but wanted to
go to Mount Idaho. After a heated argument they put her down and told her to go,
pointing out the road and telling her more Indians were in the vicinity and
would kill her if she were caught. Mother quickly sought shelter in the timber
and was about four miles from mount Idaho when Mr. Robie found her.
Mother attributed her release from the Indians to the many acts of kindness
she had shown the squaws when she was living among them. She had often assisted
with a sick child, or given food when needed.
After some month at Mount Idaho, when peace was again restored we moved to
the little village of Grangeville, 20 miles from our White Bird home.
Through the kindness of Mr. Crooks, we were allowed to occupy the house near
the Grange Mill, built for the miller and his family, sharing it with the
Mitchell family Ė Mr. Mitchell being in charge at that time.
Later Mother purchased property from William Pearson where she built our
home, and where she was afterward married to Edward Robie, the friend who
During the remainder of her life, Mother was always nervous in the presence
of Indians, and often sought the security of her bedroom when they were nears.