Trail of Tears

03.11.2019 By: Jordan Smith

February 23, 1856, Indian Agent George Ambrose began moving 325 "Indian Refugees" from the Table Rock Reservation in Southern Oregon to the Grand Ronde Reservation in the Willamette Valley. Known as the Rogue River Trail of Tears, this journey required the Natives to leave their homelands and travel, on foot, north. The Rogue River Trail of Tears would take 33 days and cover 263 miles.

Agent Ambrose kept a journal during the removal. We will share with you some of his entries as a glimpse into that history.

"February 23rd Saturday

The weather still continues to be pleasant. It was found necessary to have more teams than at first contemplated. I accordingly proceeded to Jacksonville for that purpose, and also to provide some articles, such as clothing and blankets to add to the comfort of the Indians, although the weather is sett [sic] down as pleasant. It certainly would be regarded as such, especially at this season of the year, however the nights are quite frosty and the morning’s cool, sufficiently so, to render it necessary that they should be provided with Tents, Blankets, shoes & such necessaries as would tend to promote their comfort while on the journey which being procured the day was spent in distributing the articles among them. Also two additional teams were secured to convey the sick, aged, and infirm. Our teams now number eight with I fear will not be sufficient. Thirty four Indians are disabled from traveling by reason of Sickness aside from the aged and infirm, who will as a matter of course, have to be hauled."

"February 28th Thursday

Frosty & cool again this morning. While about preparing to leave camp some person killed an Indian who had wandered off some distance from camp in search of his horse which had strayed off during the night, which caused some considerable excitement among the Indians as it went to prove the statement previously made by some evil disposed persons, to wit: that they will be killed by the way. We learned this morning that a party of evil disposed persons have gone in advance of us, as is suppose to annoy us, or kill some friendly Indians. A messenger was immediately dispatched to Capt [Andrew J.] Smith at Fort Lane for an additional force to escort us to or thro[ugh] the Canyon is it should be necessary….”

"February 29th Friday 

We remained in camp all day, quite a pleasant day. Capt. Smith arrived about two oclock. Today we had another Indian do die the first by disease on the road, although many are very sick, however there are no new cases of sickness occurring.”

"March 1st Saturday

Quite a pleasant spring like morning. Everything being in readiness by times we took up our line of march over a rough hilly mountainous country, and the roads were truly in a horrible condition. I omitted to mention that on Thursday last we took a Northwood direction and left the Rogue River to the South of us which brought us among some rough hills, between the Umpqua and Rogue River. After passing the Grave [C]reek Hills we learned that Mr. Love and some others were awaiting us at the house, intending to kill an Indian. Upon going to the house I found it to be a fact, talked with the gentlemen, told them the consequences, went back & requested Capt. Smith to arrest Mr. Love and turn him over to the civil authorities. We passed the house however without any difficulty and encamped on a small stream two miles North of Grave Creek. We drove today a distance of eight miles. We are now in the midst of hostile Indian Country and not entirely free from danger.”

"March 5th Wednesday

The Indians remained in camp today at the mouth of Canyon creek awaiting the arrival of the wagons about three or four o’clock in the evening they made their appearance. The cattle very much jaded & tired as no forage could be had. I secured the best pasture I could find and turned them in to that. An Indian girl died this evening. We were now at a distance of eleven miles from our camp of the evening of the third being occupied two days in making it. Mr. Love who still continues to follow us was arrested and put under guard.”

"March 7th Friday

The weather still continued cool & frosty of nights and pleasant thru the day. Our road today hilly & in places quite rocky. An Indian woman died this morning & the number of sick increasing. It was found necessary to hire or buy another team. I soon procured one & continued our march. We drove today a distance of ten miles & encamped in Round Prairie on the South Umpqua yet.”

"March 11th Tuesday

This morning the teams were got up quite early and preparations we made for starting. I then proceeded to Judge [Matthew P.] Deady’s and caused a writ to be issued for the arrest of Timeleon Love for the murder of a friendly Indian on the 28th day of February last. Before the service of the warrant Mr. Love had effected his escape. We found the roads in a horrible condition and grass quite scarce. The teams drove but three miles today and encamped for the purpose of the trial.”

"March 12th Wednesday

Clouds & threatening rain, we had some trouble in finding our cattle. We however succeeded in getting them together about ten o’clock. After traveling through a canyon about one and a half miles we arrived at Calapooia Creek. Our rout[e] lay directly up the creek for two & a half miles over hilly but prairie Country when we crossed the stream on a bridge at [Dorsey] Bakers. For the remainder of the day our rout[e] lay northword & over some steep hills. About four miles from the mills we struck camp at what is called [O]akland. Two deaths occurred today since we camped-one man & one woman.”

"March 18th Tuesday

Cloudy & threatening rain. During the night an Indian died which detained us a short time to bury. However by nine oclock we were in readiness to start. We traveled over a level flat country in places quite muddy. The greatest difficulty we experience is in obtaining grass for our cattle which we find exceedingly scarce. We drove today a distance of twelve miles. Camped in an oak grove near the claim of Mr. Smith.”

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