Indian Version of Battle Rock

This article appeared, May 26, 1932, in the Myrtle Point Herald, prior to the Rogue River bridge dedication. Elwood (Woody) Towner was Rogue River Tu-Tu-Ni/Mackanotin and a member of the Siletz Nation. His nephew, Gilbert Towner, was an honored elder of Siletz and participant at the Salmon Bake/ Honor Ceremony at Tseriadun .

Indian Version Of Battle; Battle Rock Mecca for Travelers

 (Editor’s note: The following story from the pen of Elwood E. Towner, Attorney for Oregon Indians, gives a new version of the causes leading up to the battle, and will be of interest to the readers of the news.)

   A great many people from Myrtle Point and the (Coos) Bay district will journey to Gold Beach and the Curry County country to participate in the Rogue River bridge dedication this weekend, and many will be interested in the historical traditions surrounding Port Orford and Battle Rock. Many versions of the early troubles among the whites and Indians have been written, and unfortunately the Indian point of view relative to the trouble at Battle Rock has never been told, only amongst the Indians themselves.
    The writer was raised among the Indian people whose ancestors lived on Rogue River, and in the Curry County country, and he is familiar with their language, customs and traditions. The writer has also spent a great deal of time studying the problems of the red men in Alaska, the greater part of the United States, and Canada. I am also familiar with the major disturbances or wars of the whites and Indians the country over, and much time was devoted to the causes of said troubles.
    Many educators and historians have pictured the red men as a cruel and savage race of people, and they have blamed the Indians in every instance for the early troubles, and unfortunately the average American mind has become poisoned and warped concerning the Indian people. The writer can safely state in fairness to all that it was crime, greed, liquor, disease and corruption brought by the whites to the Indians that caused most of the trouble in the early days. The Indian people objected to the taking and destruction of their homes by the whites, and most of all they resisted the practice of debauchery and seduction of their women and maidens. Can the Indian be persecuted, condemned and murdered for protecting the honor and virtue of their women? The early settlers, or many of them, had no moral code, and they saw fit to debauch and seduce (those) who were honorable people and, unfortunately, many (white) people of sterling worth and character were killed by the Indians because a few degenerates and perverts persisted in said practices. I think I can safely say that the American people would take the same course, should an unknown race come among us and resort to such practices.
    I understand that nine men, namely, J. H. Eagan, John T. Slater, Geo. Ridoubt, T. D. Palmer, J. Hussey, Cyrus W. Hedden, Jas. Carrigan, Erastus Summers and Captain Kirkpatrick, comprised the little colony on Battle Rock on June 10, 1851. None of the above men were familiar with the Indians, their language or customs, and in fact none of them ever lived among the red men until they reached Port Orford on the morning of June 9, 1851. When word reached Rogue River that the Sea Gull, commanded by Captain Tichenor, landed at Port Orford on the above date, the chiefs of the Tututni tribes and many others journeyed to Port Orford to pay their respects to Captain Tichenor and to exchange presents with the party, which was the Indian custom with friends, for Captain Tichenor was and always had been friendly with the Indians. When the Rogue River welcoming or reception committee reached Port Orford the Sea Gull and Captain Tichenor had pulled anchor, or the mud hook as it were, and were bound for San Francisco.
    The Indians held a dance around a large bonfire on the beach as a part of their ceremony as they had done in the past, and later a group of braves, chiefs, women and children started to the camp of Captain Kirkpatrick on Battle Rock. As above stated, Captain Kirkpatrick and his party knew practically nothing of the Indians or their customs and misunderstood the visit of the Indians to his camp, and through fear and the excitement of the occasion, he and his men fired on the Indians when they were in range of the small cannon, and many of the Indians were killed, literally murdered, and that was the start of the trouble at Port Orford between the whites and the Indians. Thus the reward to our people for their gesture of friendship toward the whites resulted in murder and bloodshed among our men, women and children, and to the present time the property and rights of the Indians have been exploited under the disguise of religion and other agencies.
    I trust that many people of intelligence and understanding will pause for a moment at the historic Battle Rock at Port Orford this weekend and appreciate the Indian in his nobler sense, and too that they can hear that faint echo or call for justice by a vanishing race. Whence cometh our help?
    The government purchased all the land west of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon from the Indians by treaty, and the Indians have never received compensation for the same to the present time. The Indians, however, in Oregon did not sell their hunting and fishing rights, and they still retain the same. The Americans have broken faith with the once-noble red man on every hand, and this is the part the Indians played in the tragedy of the past and present civilization; and Battle Rock at Port Orford, Oregon, to the American Indian is a monument to the most terrible and gruesome murder among the once-powerful Tututni tribes of Rogue River Indians, and this, my friends, is just an illustration of the plight of our people, and we pride ourselves on being members of a great and glorious, democratic government.

← Previous post

Next post →


  1. gary carlson

    is there a old photo or description of the signal cannon used?

    • Gary,
      No known photo of the cannon exists. It has been identified as a Brass Four-Pounder Signal Cannon. Cyrus Hedden described it, in his accounting, as an “old brass cannon” John H. Egan, in his accounting, says it was a “Four-Pounder”. I have seen an account of the cannon being a brass Six-Pounder, but I think this is confusion between the Seagull and the Columbia. Indian agent Anson Dart referred to the cannon as an Iron Cannon, but much of his accounting has been discredited by historians. Consensus is Brass Four-Pounder.

      • Aric Fisher

        Is there any indigenous references to a non-indigen living among the local Tututni of Port Orford area at the time of the battle between the Kirkpatrick camp and the indigens?

        • Aric, Rick Cook here, I have never heard a native tell of a non-Indian with the Quatomah at the fight at Battle Rock. The story of a red-headed Russian is probably a myth, although all of Tichenor’s nine men say there was a red-headed warrior among the Indians.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.