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MIDVALE CENTENNIAL Middle Valley and the Indian Wars by Kathy Carr Reprinted from the News Reporter, August, 1981 the ancient, long-stemmed medicine pipe, When Middle Valley settlers awoke with full ceremony and total silence. early that morning in 1878 it was just too To their credit the white men were quiet. Not a sound came from the little apparently able to tolerate the dreadful- Bannock village down by the river bottom. smelling weed used in the pipe, without No barking of dogs, no neighing of horses, becoming too queasy - until perhaps later. no happy babble of voices. So far I can find no source of Gradually, it dawned on the whites identification for the nauseous substance. that something was wrong. Not only were Does anyone know? the usual village noises absent, but when The chief in the little village was somebody piled on a horse and galloped called Bannock Joe. Villagers bartered down to investigate, he found the clearing back and forth with the settlers, as bare as if it had been swept with a exchanging moccasins and hides, food and broom. flour. Sometime during the night the As long as a white family respected Indians had left without any warning Indian codes of ethics, gave a gift for a gift, whatsoever. had respect for the land and its wildlife, And never again did they come and maintained the honor of one’s word, back to live in Middle Valley. the Indians were loyal friends. Panic spread among valley When John McRoberts left his residents about as rapidly as did the news. family on their isolated Middle Valley Did this mean war? Were they all going to homestead for several months to work in be massacred? Boise, Indian women came every day to During the years of early stand guard over Mrs. McRoberts and the settlement, Idaho had seen its share of children. This was one of their ways of bloody Indian wars. Massacres and returning a favor. scalpings, skirmishes and ambushes H.P. Linder made friends with his enlivened the annals of the 50's and 60's. Indian neighbors. One day while he was But during the early Middle Valley away, his wife was startled to see a big years, Indians and white appeared to live Indian hurrying up the path to the house. compatibly enough. White children He urgently tried to tell her something, but mingled in play with she couldn’t understand. Finally he Indian youngsters of the village by the shrugged, and went out to the woodpile. river, and white men often sat for hours in There he sat for hours. the councils of the village elders, to smoke Mrs. Linder’s housework must It wasn’t, although he enjoyed the have suffered that day, as she peeked meal. through the curtains to see if he was still He stayed all day until Mr. Linder there. returned. He told Mr. Linder that a grass Finally she decided to feed him, fire was burning out of control and coming and after cooking a huge meal, she served toward the Linder home. He had stayed it up to him in a dishpan, hoping this is there to protect Mrs. Linder in case the fire what he wanted. came too close. As more and more whites poured began to understand the principles of into Idaho territory in the 1870's, some of ecology, the balance of nature, and gave them considered an Indian no better than a warning. But not many really cared. wild animal. Class-conscious settlers What mattered were roads and farms and perpetrated some terrible things upon good clapboard houses, fruit trees, Indians as well as immigrant Chinese, who gardens and irrigation ditches, hay fields came to work in the mines. White and good stout barbed wire fences. supremacy died hard in the hearts of In 1877 resentment among even many, in spite of the Civil War. Indians who had tried to co-exist with The apparently limitless abundance settlers encroaching on their ancestral of game and forage led to wanton killing of lands, erupted hotly all over the Pacific anything that moved. The land was over Northwest, and for 3 years, Idaho territory utilized. The vast fields of camas and settlers took to forts as rumors of couse, staples of the Indian diet, were massacres spread from village to farm. plowed under, or otherwise plundered and Indians were herded into reservations. destroyed. The hills, waving head-high But Indians knew no boundaries. Had not with bunch grass, were soon bare and the whole land been theirs for thousand of trampled by vast herds of cattle. Only the years? Small bands of them tried to sagebrush and a few other herbs survived, maintain their summer wanderings for simply because they weren’t edible. many years. And how much did the whites Others took matters into their own care? “Let them raise a garden, like we do - hands, and fought back. Settlers fled to take off that heathenish beadwork and hastily built log forts as they heard talks of dress like white folks, and go to church.” skirmishes, pillage and murder along the How could the whites understand Salmon River from White Bird to Mt. the deep respect in Indian hearts for Earth Idaho. Mother, who had furnished them for There followed the Nez Perce, the thousands of years with what they Bannock, and finally the Sheepeater wars. needed? Their very religion forbade them Indians who had set out to reclaim their to violate the earth with a plow, to kill an camas fields and hunting grounds were animal without need. themselves very nearly exterminated. To most white men in those days At Indian Springs that summer of such a concept was heathenish, and should 1878, H.P. Linder, James Sutton and be uprooted. several others flushed out a thieving band A few far-seeing, discerning men of Indians bent on stealing horses. who had studied the westward wave of Three Indian Valley men were destruction as the emigrations increased, killed and one wounded, after they trailed no time to reach the fort, families would a band of Indian horse thieves across the hide in the willows along the river. mountains to Long Valley that summer. Elizabeth Wiggins, the third white This was about as close as Middle Valley child born in the valley, recalled that her ever got to real strife with Indians. Their family went to the fort at Mann’s Creek, attempts at peaceful co-existence had before Fort Growler was built. But during apparently paid off. But this meant the summer of 1878 the family slipped out nothing to them. The scare was on. They after dark and waded to an island in the made hasty, galloping trips to Salubria’s Weiser River and slept in a big hole. “Fort Growler” at a moment’s notice. Elizabeth learned to walk, there on the At times when they felt there was island, by holding on to the brush. The Keithleys, Levi and John, hid bedrolls for their families in the willows by the creek. After dark they carried their beds to a low-lying meadow, where no one could sneak up on them, and there they slept, with guns and dogs. By 1880 the scare was over, and within a few years the Indians had reluctantly accepted a new way of life, at least outwardly. And settlers, without a twinge of conscience, accepted a good night’s sleep as their due.
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